Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas has reported the first death caused by Ebola in America. Thomas Eric Duncan apparently showed no symptoms before boarding a plane in Liberia, where he lived. He fell ill several days after landing on Sept. 20, in Dallas, Texas and died this past Wednesday. Duncan went to the emergency room complaining of abdominal pain, dizziness, a headache and decreased urination. He was found to have a temperature of 103 degrees. After running a series of tests to rule out any serious ailments the hospital sent Duncan on his way, even though he told the hospital he had recently been in Africa.
Duncan was prescribed antibiotics and told to take Tylenol. He was staying at an apartment in Dallas with his fiancé, Louis Troh, her son and two other people. On Sept. 28 he was rushed back to the hospital when someone in the apartment called the paramedics. He was admitted and put into isolation.
Hospital records show Duncan had reported recently being in West Africa, but that he denied coming in contact with anyone sick. The initial report also shows Duncan said his pain was an eight on a scale of 10. According to the E.R. notes, the attending physician wrote, “I have given patient instructions regarding their diagnosis, the condition of the patient at this time is stable.”
Ms. Troh, 54, her 13-year-old son and the two other men who were living with Duncan when he began to show signs of the Ebola virus are quarantined in Troh’s home. They are under orders from state health officials to remain isolated for 21 days, the amount of time the virus is active. Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital expressed condolences, but there are new questions about the treatment Duncan received and whether he would still be alive today had he been admitted on his first visit to the E.R.
More than 4,000 people have died from the virus to date. Liberia, Guinea and Leone have had all but nine of the deaths. In America, fear of death from Ebola is causing growing panic. In September an online poll of over 2,000 adults showed 13 percent considered Ebola a threat in America. That number has jumped to over 50 percent after word was released of Duncan’s death. The public’s rising concern over Ebola is understandable, said Dr. Pritish Tosh, a physician and researcher at The Mayo Clinic.
Tosh adds that much of the fear is unwarranted, given that Ebola does not spread easily and the United States has advanced health care and public systems in place to deal with potential outbreaks, adding this should not be a reason to put off travel this coming holiday season. Tosh recently traveled by air to attend a conference on infectious disease in Philadelphia.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), symptoms of the virus do not appear in humans until five days after being infected. Early signs of infection are headache, fatigue, fever and chills. By day 10 if left untreated the victim may see signs of vomiting, blood, rashes and passive behavior. In rare cases there have been reports of bleeding from nose, mouth, eyes and anus.
Starting today, passengers flying into five major American airports from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia will have their temperature taken and be asked questions concerning health. These screenings will begin in New York’s JFK and roll out to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson, Chicago O’Hare, Newark Liberty and Washington Dulles next week. The Ebola virus does not have to cause death in America. With general interventions like IV fluids and maintaining blood pressure a patients chances of survival are greatly improved.
By Paul Sears
Picure by CDC Global Flickr
Picture by NIAID Flickr
Featured image by European Commission DG ECHO Flickr