“Regretfully, that information was not fully communicated throughout the full team,” Lester said. “As a result, the full import of that information wasn't factored in to the clinical decision-making.”
At the same news conference, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said the infected man—whom the Associated Press has identified as Thomas Eric Duncan—had come into contact with five children, and that they were being monitored for signs of infection over the next three weeks. As many as 18 people are being watched for the possibility of symptoms developing, including three members of an ambulance crew that transported the man back to the hospital where he was admitted Sept. 28, 10 days after he first arrived in the U.S. from Liberia.
Those identified as possibly being exposed to the virus will be monitored for up to 21 days, the period of time it can take before symptoms occur.
Hospital officials described Duncan's condition as of Wednesday as “serious but stable.” Texas state health officials have insisted the risk to the general public of a possible outbreak was minimal.
Despite the communication mishap, Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. David Lakey was adamant about the ability of the healthcare provider to treat and contain the disease.
“This is not West Africa,” Lakey said. “This is a very sophisticated city, a very sophisticated hospital, and the dynamics are significantly different from what they are in West Africa.”
Duncan left Liberia on Sept. 19, arriving in the U.S. one day later to visit with family members living in Texas. Officials have not disclosed his nationality or how he was exposed to the disease. The patient reportedly displayed no symptoms while traveling, according to CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden. The patient began feeling sick around Sept. 24, and initially sought treatment with a visit to the hospital's emergency department on Sept. 26.
“The bottom line here is that I have no doubt that we will control this case of Ebola so that it does not spread widely in this country,” Frieden said Tuesday. “It is certainly possible that someone who had contact with this individual, a family member or another individual, could develop Ebola in the coming weeks, but there is no doubt in my mind that we will stop it here.”
Duncan marks the first-ever case of a person being positively diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. There have been more than 6,500 people infected throughout the countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal in the worst recorded outbreak of the disease.
Four American aid workers have gotten sick while in West Africa and were transported in recent months back to the U.S. for treatment at facilities with special isolation units.
Follow Steven Ross Johnson on Twitter: @MHsjohnson