Officials in Liberia have accused Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian-born Ebola patient that is currently in the United States (US), of lying on a customs questionnaire before he boarded the Dallas-bound plane that ultimately landed on US soil. The Liberian government says they intend to prosecute him, though it is not immediately clear what they intend to charge him with.
Duncan is believed to have contracted Ebola just four days before he boarded the US-bound plane, when he carried Marthalene Williams, a 19-year-old pregnant woman infected with Ebola, into her house after she was turned away from an already-full Ebola treatment center. She died the next day.
Duncan was reportedly asymptomatic on the flight to Dallas. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a patient with Ebola is not contagious until they begin to show symptoms and say that fellow passengers on the plane with Duncan have “zero risk” of contracting the virus from him.
Duncan, who came to Dallas to visit his fiancée, did not begin showing symptoms of Ebola until three days later, on Sept. 23. Three days later, on Friday, Sept. 26, Duncan walked into the emergency room (ER) and complained of a fever and stomach pain. As part of standard procedure, a nurse asked him a series of questions, one being if he had recently traveled to West Africa. Despite the fact that Duncan responded that he had, the nurse apparently overlooked it and failed to relay the information to other hospital staff. Instead, Duncan was sent home with a prescription for antibiotics. It was not until two days later, on Sunday, Sept. 28, that Duncan, whose condition had worsened, arrived back at the hospital in an ambulance. He was promptly admitted to the hospital and put in isolation. On Tuesday Duncan was diagnosed with Ebola.
The Liberian government believes Duncan, who is the first Ebola patient ever to be diagnosed on US soil, lied on the airport questionnaire before boarding the plane to Dallas in order to get to the US. The questionnaire inquired about his possible exposure to the virus, among other things. One question specifically asked if he had ever cared for an Ebola patient, or touched a dead person in an area affected by Ebola outbreaks. Despite having had contact with Williams, Duncan answered “no” to every question.
Apparently, he never mentioned his exposure to the virus to his fiancée, either. Louise told reporters that she and Duncan have never discussed Ebola with each other. When he initially got sick, they thought he might have had malaria. She also said that the earlier reports that her fiancée threw up multiple times outside the residence are incorrect.
Despite the fact that Duncan stayed with her for the five days he was reportedly symptomatic before being admitted to the hospital and isolated, Louise said she is not concerned that she might be infected with the deadly virus. She explained that Duncan is very “prideful” and does not like to be taken care of when he is sick. She also told reporters that the CDC did not tell her what to do with his sweat-stained sheets, in which he slept in while he was sick.
It is not known whether Duncan, who lives in Liberia, intentionally lied about his recent exposure to Ebola on the airport questionnaire in order to get to Dallas, or if he simply was not thinking about it at the time he gave his answers. The general consensus among government officials and leaders in Liberia is that Duncan’s actions were intentional and done out of “selfishness.” It is not immediately clear if Duncan even intends to return to Liberia, but if he does, he is apparently in a world of trouble with their government.
By Lindsey Dow