- Approximately 100 individuals who had contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, the first diagnosed Ebola patient within the U.S., are under health surveillance for potential symptoms.
- Those in contact with Duncan, including four family members in quarantine, will have their temperatures monitored for 21 days – the longest incubation period for Ebola.
- Texas health officials are not planning further quarantines, proving confidence in the established systems to prevent further spread of Ebola in the U.S.
- Duncan showed symptoms of Ebola after his arrival in the U.S. from Liberia, although he was screened and appeared normal at the airport.
- The U.S. is looking to expedite the production of an experimental drug, ZMapp, for the treatment of Ebola, albeit the availability is expected to be limited.
Authorities in Texas revealed that around 100 individuals who were in contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, a diagnosed Ebola patient, are presently under health surveillance for possible symptoms of the deadly virus.
Interactions with Duncan: Direct and Indirect
The Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Tom Frieden, classified the interactions these individuals had with Duncan as either “direct” or “indirect.” Duncan, of Liberian descent, arrived in the U.S. on the 20th of September to visit family members in Dallas. He is the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola within the U.S,. The virus has afflicted several West African countries since the spring.
“There could potentially be more U.S. cases among people who had been exposed,” Dr. Frieden mentioned during a news conference.
“However, if this happens, we have established systems to prevent me further spread of Ebola. We are confident that any potential spread of Ebola in the United States can be contained,” he assured.
Those who were in contact with Duncan will have their temperatures checked for 21 days, the longest incubation period for Ebola. At present, the sole individuals under quarantine are four of Duncan’s family members in Dallas. They are being confined to their apartment, and their temperature is being taken twice daily. Fever is among the earliest noticeable symptoms of Ebola.
The decision was made to monitor these particular family members as they did not adhere to a request not to leave their apartment. Texas State Health Commissioner, David Lakey, stated that this confinement ensures the relatives can be closely monitored for the standard three-week period, which includes checking for fevers.
No Immediate Plans for Further Quarantine
Texas health officials have no immediate plans for further quarantine.
In addition to Duncan’s immediate family, others undergoing observation consist of five schoolchildren and the three-person ambulance crew that escorted Duncan to the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.
The children, who Duncan may have been in contact with over the weekend at a home in Texas, attend four distinct schools – a high school, middle school, and two primary schools.
Timeline of Duncan’s Condition
Duncan traveled to the US from Liberia after leaving his job at a shipping company in Monrovia, Liberia – one of West African countries dealing with the Ebola outbreak. He started showing Ebola symptoms on the 24th of September and sought medical care two days later at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Due to some hospital officials not being alerted to his recent stay in West Africa, he was discharged. However, his condition deteriorated, and he was re-admitted to the hospital.
Prior to his departure from Liberia, Duncan underwent Ebola screening at an airport and his temperature appeared normal, only to display symptoms after four or five days in the U.S., according to Dr. Frieden.
All travelers from West Africa are currently being screened for fever. To date, roughly 12 people have been barred from boarding flights, though none have been diagnosed with Ebola. It was found that they were suffering from other illnesses, like malaria, as per Dr. Frieden.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is currently aiming to fast-track the production of ZMapp, an experimental drug which may help treat the Ebola virus though is currently in limited supply.
However, even with amplified efforts to produce the drug, experts estimate that only hundreds or even thousands of treatment doses will be available by the start of 2015.
Dr. Frieden emphasized that Ebola isn’t easily transmitted, as a person needs to have direct contact with the body fluids of a symptomatic person to become infected. These symptoms comprise fever, muscle ache, vomiting, and bleeding and can manifest as far as 21 days post exposure to the virus.
The Ebola epidemic that commenced in West Africa last spring is the worst outbreak of the disease in recorded history. To date, 6,500 individuals have been infected and nearly 3,100 have deceased in the countries of Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, according to the WHO.
The U.S. health officials cautioned that the epidemic could affect as many as 1.4 million people by mid-January if the global community doesn’t rapidly respond to this crisis.
For More Information
You can learn more details about the Ebola virus by visiting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.