A handful of children in Texas have been exposed to the Ebola virus after it has been determined that Thomas Eric Duncan – who was diagnosed with the disease a week after he was released from a Dallas hospital – had been in contact with them. The school-aged children are being monitored from home. Concerned parents have removed their children from school for the week to avoid contagion.
According to the Dallas Independent School District Superintendent, the students were in school this week after possibly being in contact with Duncan over the weekend. Now they will remain home under observation for signs of the disease. The five schools that the children attended will be staffed with health and custodial personnel as an added precaution.
When Duncan, a 42-year-old Liberian national, arrived at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas for a low-grade fever and abdominal pain, he informed hospital staff of his recent arrival from Liberia. Duncan underwent basic blood tests, but not an Ebola screening. He was prescribed antibiotics and sent home.
Dr. Mark Lester, executive vice president of Texas Health Resources, attributed the mishandling of the patient’s case to ineffective communication. He explained that the patient’s travel history was neither explored in-depth nor communicated to the medical team.
Three days later, he returned to the hospital. Only then was he placed in isolation under suspicion of Ebola virus. Now labeled as being in serious condition, he remains in isolation in intensive care. Duncan came to the States from Liberia to visit family and friends.
Of the Ebola cases and death toll in West African, 3,458 cases and 1,830 deaths occurred in Liberia as of September 23. Nigeria, Guinea and Sierra Leone are also infected. Of the 6,500 who contracted the disease, over 3,000 people have died from the virus.
People who have Ebola are contagious only after symptoms show. Severe headache, high fever, diarrhea and vomiting, are some of the active symptoms of Ebola. At that stage, the virus can pass through contact with infected bodily fluid. It is not an airborne virus.
Texas Governor Rick Perry says the hospital staff and local, state and federal officials are taking the necessary and available steps to treat Duncan and “to assure the safety and welfare of our citizens.” He feels confident that the virus, which has now hit American soil, can be contained.
Perry conveys reassurance offering that Texas – one of only 13 states certified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct diagnostic Ebola testing – is one of few places equipped to deal with Ebola. Dr. David Lakey, the commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, agrees with Perry, adding that since West Africa’s outbreak, the state has been preparing for the arrival of the virus.
The CDC continues attempting to locate any and all individuals who have come in contact with the patient after he left the hospital. Dr. Christopher Perkins of the Dallas Department of Health and Human Services counts the ambulance crew in the 12-18 additional people Duncan came in contact with. That number however, does not include the five members of his immediate household. In the meantime, Duncan along with the five children and the schools which they attend, will be closely monitored for symptoms as the Ebola threat hits American soil in Texas.
By Charice Long