Texas and Dallas County health officials have quarantined four family members of the patient, identified as Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan, and told them to remain in their home and not have visitors.
“We have tried and true protocols to protect the public and stop the spread of this disease,” Dr. David Lakey, the Texas health commissioner, said in a statement. “This order gives us the ability to monitor the situation in the most meticulous way.”
Duncan is getting treatment at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, which described his condition on Wednesday as serious.
At a Texas news conference on Wednesday, hospital officials acknowledged that a communication lapse led clinicians to release Duncan (who was not named by the hospital but identified by Liberian officials and in news reports) after he visited the emergency department Sept. 26.
The hospital had a checklist in place to identify possible carriers of the virus, and Duncan informed a nurse that he recently traveled from West Africa. “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 decisionmaking.”
He was admitted to the hospital and placed in an isolation unit two days later when his symptoms worsened. According to a Reuters report, Duncan was seen vomiting on the ground as he was taken from a Dallas apartment to an ambulance.
Duncan left Liberia on Sept. 19, arriving in the U.S. one day later to visit family members living in Texas. The New York Times has reported that he had helped carry a pregnant woman who was convulsing from the disease four days before his trip.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Thomas Frieden has said that health officials are not tracking passengers who flew with Duncan because he was not showing symptoms when he boarded and could have infected anyone.
Duncan's case is the first positive diagnosis for Ebola in the U.S. It is believed Duncan contracted the disease while in Liberia, one of five countries where the virus has spread. More than 6,500 people throughout Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal have been infected since March, according to the World Health Organization, which has resulted in more than 3,000 deaths.
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