The Dallas patient who was diagnosed with Ebola yesterday reportedly exposed multiple people to the virus in the days before he was admitted to the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. The patient, who has been identified as Thomas Eric Duncan is currently being treated in isolation at the Dallas hospital. He reportedly moved to the United States from Liberia less than two weeks ago.
On Sept. 19, the man reportedly flew from Liberia to Dallas International Airport, arriving on Sept. 20. At the time, he did not exhibit symptoms of Ebola and health officials have said all fellow passengers on the plane with him have “zero risk” of contracting the disease from him. It was not until four days later that the man began to feel sick and exhibit symptoms of Ebola, though it is not known what specific symptoms he displayed.
He did not seek treatment, however, until two days later, on Sept. 26, when went to the hospital, but he either did not suspect his illness was Ebola or did not inform the doctor treating him, because he was given a prescription for antibiotics and then sent home. The hospital has since released a statement that they did not know he had just moved to the US from Liberia. It is not clear whether or not they inquired about his recent travels to West Africa (the center of the Ebola epidemic that has reportedly claimed over 3000 lives since the outbreak began this winter), only that he did not tell them.
Two days later, on Sept. 28, after his illness worsened, an ambulance was called, but he either still did not suspect he had Ebola, or did not mention it if he did, because upon arrival, three workers inside the ambulance were not wearing protective suits and exposed to the deadly virus as they picked him up and transported him to the Dallas hospital. Unaware that an Ebola patient had been riding in it, the ambulance proceeded to operate in service for two more days before being disinfected. It is not clear how many other workers or patients rode in the ambulance during that two day period. The three people who were in the ambulance when the patient was transported to the hospital (one intern, two paramedics) on Sunday are also being closely monitored and subject to the same restrictions as the relatives the patient had been staying with.
Of the five known Ebola patients that have set foot on US soil, those who had contact with the Dallas patient poses highest risk of spread due to the fact that he exposed multiple people to the virus who were not protected because they were not aware he had it. Before being admitted to the hospital, the man had reportedly been staying with relatives in Dallas. In the four days he exhibited symptoms of the highly infectious disease while staying with them, he reportedly had contact with multiple people, including five kids that range from elementary school to high school. All of them are now being closely monitored by health officials for 21 days (the longest incubation period for Ebola, which reportedly begins to show symptoms anywhere from 2-21 days after initial infection). They are not allowed to leave their home for 21 days, unless they begin to show signs that they are infected, in which case they will be admitted to a hospital for treatment, in isolation. This includes the five school-age kids, who will not be able to attend school for the next 21 days.
It is not yet known whether Ebola will spread to the multiple people who came in to contact with the Dallas patient from Sept. 24-28, but if it does, the CDC said they are confident in their ability to contain the spread. As of today, he is reportedly in serious, yet stable condition.
By Lindsey Dow