(Bloomberg) — More than 80 people in Dallas are being monitored for symptoms of Ebola after coming into contact with patient Thomas Eric Duncan or others who Duncan had met, health officials said.
The people have been asked to report to Texas health officials or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention if they show signs of the deadly virus, Erikka Neroes, a spokeswoman for Dallas County Department of Health and Human Services, said by telephone. Early signs can include a high temperature or other flu-like symptoms.
Officials have also ordered four of Duncan’s family members to remain at home until at least Oct. 19 and not have any visitors to prevent any potential spread of the virus. So far, none of the people have shown symptoms, Neroes said.
Duncan had close contact with 12 to 18 people, officials have said, and public health workers have been tracking down anyone those people came in contact with. The goal is to identify people who could potentially become sick and contagious, and if they do, isolate them before they can infect others.
Duncan was sick for several days in Dallas before eventually being isolated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas on Sept. 28.
Two days before, he had shown up at the hospital feeling ill, according to information supplied by the hospital’s front desk. He was sent home from the emergency room with antibiotics even though he told a nurse he had recently been in Africa, hospital officials said yesterday.
When he came back it was in an ambulance, and he was confirmed as infected with Ebola and is in serious condition.
Some people in Dallas were nervous about the days Duncan had spent outside the hospital.
“We had a variety of responses from parents, as you might expect in a case like this,” Andre Riley, a Dallas Independent School District spokesman, said yesterday in an interview. “Some were very concerned about what is occurring and others just want to be informed.”
At least one of the exposed children attends Dan D. Rogers Elementary School in Dallas. At the school yesterday, four men in white, head-to-toe protective suits, identified by Riley as janitors, cleaned portable buildings that serve as classrooms. The group was among several teams disinfecting areas where the exposed students had recently been.
As for the white suits, Riley said, “I’m sure they are taking extra precautions. Our people don’t normally wear body suits.”
Maria Landa, 39, has a 4-year-old son in pre-kindergarten at Dan D. Rogers school, about 3 miles from the hospital. She said she all but panicked when officials called her yesterday and said a student at the school had been exposed to the Ebola patient.
“They said, ‘There’s nothing to worry about’ and they didn’t let out early,” Landa said as she left the school yesterday afternoon. “They said they were sending more information home with the kids.”
Landa shrugged when asked if she has confidence in how health authorities are handing the case. “When you hear the man was in the hospital and they let him go, you don’t know,” she said. “I’m concerned.”
The patient was identified as Duncan by a person familiar with his care, who asked not to be named because the matter is private. His case is the first confirmed Ebola infection in the U.S.
Duncan isn’t getting the same experimental drug given to two American aid workers who were evacuated to the U.S. in August, said Josephus Weeks in Kannapolis, North Carolina, who said he was a family member of Duncan. Public records show Weeks lives in a house with Duncan’s sister, who was identified yesterday by the Associated Press.
The drug, called ZMapp, is an experimental treatment made by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. The company has said it has run out of the medicine. American and European patients have been given the drug, Weeks said, asking why Duncan had not.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Texas doctors are discussing the use of further possible experimental treatments, CDC Director Thomas Frieden said at a Sept. 30 news conference. No decision has been made, he said. Meanwhile, the ambulance workers and other health-care professionals who treated the infected man in the Dallas area are being monitored, Edward Goodman, an epidemiologist at Texas Health Presbyterian, said at a news conference.
Short drug supply