When an Ebola patient walked into the emergency room (ER) at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas on Friday, those involved in his care apparently ignored some major alarm bells. The patient has been identified as Thomas Eric Duncan. He is 42 years old. He reportedly just arrived in the United States two weeks ago, from Liberia, to visit his fiancée.
Duncan reportedly boarded a flight from Liberia to the United States on Friday, Sept. 19 and arrived in Dallas on Saturday, Sept. 20. He was reportedly asymptomatic at the time he took the flight, so according to the Center for Disease Control, passengers on the plane with him have “zero risk” of becoming infected, since Ebola patients are reportedly only contagious once they start showing symptoms.
It was not until four days later, on Sept. 24, that Duncan started to feel sick. Two days later, clad in street clothes, he walked into the ER and complained he was not feeling well. As part of standard procedure, a nurse asked him a checklist of questions, one that inquired if he had been to West Africa recently. According to hospital paperwork, Duncan was honest and told the nurse that he had just arrived in Dallas from Liberia a week ago, but for some reason, no alarm bells went off in the mind of the nurse, who failed to alert other hospital staff and Duncan was not isolated. Instead, Duncan was sent home with an antibiotics prescription.
Mark C. Lester, executive vice president of Texas Health Resources, admits that the Dallas hospital regrets ignoring the seemingly obvious alarm bells of a patient potentially infected with Ebola. Lester was vague in his explanation for the oversight, and said only that Duncan’s recent arrival from Liberia was not “fully communicated” to the “full team” of those who worked at the hospital.
Despite the major oversight, the Dallas hospital is not prepared to accept responsibility for the fact that a symptomatic Ebola patient was sent back on the streets. They released a statement Wednesday, insisting they had followed all CDC protocols. The hospital admitted that the patient complained of a low-grade fever and abdominal pain, both of which are considered early symptoms of Ebola, but stated such symptoms did not warrant admission. The hospital says this, despite the fact that the CDC sent an advisory to every hospital and health worker in the country, instructing them to note and isolate all patients with a recent travel history to West Africa, especially those who exhibit warning signs of Ebola, which, among the list of symptoms they gave, specifically included abdominal pain and fever.
Meanwhile, back at the residence of his fiancée and her two children, Duncan’s condition worsened. Two days after being sent away by the Dallas ER, someone at the residence he was staying called an ambulance. Duncan reportedly threw up outside the apartment complex as the ambulance arrived, which, in addition to Duncan, had three emergency medical staff (EMS) workers inside it, all of who have now been exposed to the virus and are now being closely monitored by health officials.
This time, upon Duncan’s arrival to the Dallas hospital, the previously ignored alarm bells of man infected with Ebola rang loud and clear. He was promptly admitted to the hospital and immediately isolated from the other patients. Two days later, he was officially diagnosed with Ebola.
By Lindsey Dow