The Dallas Ebola case, involving a man who flew back to the United
States last month from Liberia, has prompted national concern over
the potential for a wider spread of the deadly virus from West
Africa, where at least 3,338 people have died in the worst outbreak
U.S. health officials have said the country's healthcare system is
well prepared to contain any spread of Ebola through careful
tracking of people who had contact with the patient and appropriate
care for those admitted to hospital.
"His whole family was screaming. He got outside and he was throwing
up all over the place," resident Mesud Osmanovic, 21, said on
Wednesday, describing the chaotic scene before the man was admitted
to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on Sunday where he is in
The hospital cited the stricken man's privacy as the reason for not
identifying him. However, Gee Melish, who said he was a family
friend, identified the man as Thomas Eric Duncan.
The New York Times said that Duncan, in his mid-40s, helped
transport a pregnant woman suffering from Ebola to a hospital in
Liberia, where she was turned away for lack of space. Duncan helped
bring the woman back to her family's home and carried her into the
house, where she later died, the newspaper reported.
Four days later Duncan left for the United States, the Times said,
citing the woman's parents and neighbors.
Texas health officials said that up to 18 people, including five
children, had contact with the Ebola patient since he returned to
the United States in late September. The children had gone to school
early this week but have since been sent home and are being
monitored for symptoms.
Ebola spreads through contact with bodily fluids such as blood or
saliva, which health experts say limits its potential to infect
others, unlike airborne diseases.
Still, the long window of time before patients exhibit signs of
infection, such as fever, vomiting and diarrhea, means an infected
person can travel without detection.
Airline and hotel company shares dropped sharply on U.S. markets on
Wednesday over concerns that Ebola's spread outside Africa might
Drugmakers with experimental Ebola treatments in the pipeline saw
their shares rise.
The Dallas patient had initially sought treatment at Texas Health
Presbyterian Hospital late last Thursday and was sent home with
antibiotics rather than being observed further, even though he told
a nurse he had recently returned from West Africa. By Sunday, he
needed an ambulance to return to the same hospital, where he was
A nurse asked about the travel as part of a triage checklist and was
told about it. “Regretfully, that information was not fully
communicated throughout the full teams. As a result, the full import
of that information wasn’t factored into the full decision making,”
Texas hospital official Mark Lester said.
Infectious disease experts said that time gap represented a critical
missed opportunity that may have led others to be exposed to the
At the apartment complex, Osmanovic said he met the man three times
over the years when he was visiting his family. Most of the
neighborhood is from Liberia, Somalia or Sudan. Osmanovic is from
The only sign on Wednesday of the family's presence was someone
occasionally pulling back the white blinds to peek out into the
parking lot. A security officer blocked the entrance to the complex,
with instructions only to let residents in and out.
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Dr. Christopher Perkins, Dallas County Health and Human Services
Medical Director, said that of the 18 people who had been in
contact, many were "close family members".
The children among them "did not have any symptoms and so the odds
of them passing on any sort of virus is very low", said Mike Miles,
Dallas Independent School District superintendent.
Miles said the four different schools they attended would be staffed
with additional health professionals and classes would remain in
Texas officials said health workers who took care of the patient had
so far tested negative for the virus and there were no other
suspected cases in the state. Texas Governor Rick Perry told a news
conference he was confident the virus would be contained, as did
While past outbreaks of Ebola killed as many as 90 percent of
victims, the current epidemic's fatality rate has averaged about 50
percent in West Africa.
The patient arrived in Texas on Sept. 20, and first sought treatment
six days later, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
The Liberian government said that the man showed no signs of fever
or other symptoms of Ebola when he left the country on Sept. 19.
A Liberian official said the man traveled through Brussels to the
United States. United Airlines said in a statement that the man took
one of its flights from Brussels to Washington Dulles Airport, where
he changed planes to travel to Dallas-Fort Worth.
A spokesman for Brussels Airlines, the only airline to fly direct
scheduled services between Brussels and Monrovia, said he could not
confirm that the passenger had flown with the company.
"We also have not been contacted by anyone to tell us to take
measures or contact passengers because of an infected passenger
traveling with us," spokesman Geert Sciot said.
Separately on Wednesday, citing a "heightened sense of awareness of
Ebola", the Queens Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, said it was
treating a patient in isolation.
"At this time the patient's history and clinical presentation do not
appear to be consistent with Ebola and the patient may be diagnosed
with a number of conditions other than Ebola," the statement said.
(Additional reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas, Jeffrey
Dastin in New York, Susan Heavey and Alphonso Toweh in Washington,
David Lewis in Dakar and Robert-Jan Bartunek; Writing by Grant
McCool; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Dominic Evans)
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