Sat | Aug 18, 2018

Texas Ebola monitoring now beyond initial contacts

Published:Friday | October 3, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Two days after a man in Texas was diagnosed with Ebola, Dr Gil Mobley, a Missouri doctor, checks in to board a plane dressed in full protection gear yesterday, at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Parents walk past the L.L. Hotchkiss Elementary school main entrance sign after dropping off their children holding sheets of paper with Ebola virus information handed to them by school administrators, yesterday, in Dallas.
Mercy Kennedy, nine, cries as community activists approach her outside her home on 72nd SKD Boulevard in Monrovia, Liberia yesterday, a day after her mother was taken away by an ambulance to an Ebola ward. Hours later, neighbours wailed upon learning that Mercy's mother had died. AP photos

DALLAS (AP): Up to yesterday morning, about 80 people were being monitored for symptoms of Ebola in Texas, a Dallas County Health and Human Services spokeswoman disclosed.

The people being monitored are the 12 to 18 people who first came into contact with the infected man, which federal health officials have said include three members of the ambulance crew that took him to the hospital, plus a handful of schoolchildren, as well as others those initial people had contact with, spokeswoman Erikka Neroes said.

"The number of people who are now part of the contact investigation has grown to more than 80," she said.

Neroes was unable to specify how those initial 12 to 18 people came in contact with the larger group, nor could she provide specifics about the ages of those being monitored. No one is showing symptoms, she said, and health officials have told them to monitor their own conditions in the coming weeks.

The Texas Department of State Health Services said yesterday it has a list of about 100 potential or possible contacts but that the official "contract tracing number will be lower," department spokeswoman Carrie Williams said in a statement. The statement did not say specifically when the official number will be released, but that the current figure is due to caution and includes people who had brief encounters with the patient or the patient's home.

Health officials are focusing on containment to try to stem the possibility of the Ebola virus spreading beyond Thomas Eric Duncan, who traveled from Liberia to Dallas to visit relatives and fell ill on September 24. His sister, Mai Wureh, identified Duncan as the infected man in an interview with The Associated Press.

Sent home last seek

A Dallas emergency room sent Duncan home last week, even though he told a nurse that he had been in disease-ravaged West Africa. The decision by Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital to release Duncan could have put others at risk of exposure to Ebola before the man went back to the ER a couple of days later when his condition worsened.

"That's how we're going to break the chain of transmission, and that's where our focus has to be," Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Wednesday.

The patient explained to a nurse last Thursday that he was visiting the US from Africa, but that information was not widely shared, said Dr. Mark Lester, who works for the hospital's parent company.

Hospital epidemiologist Dr. Edward Goodman said the patient had a fever and abdominal pain during his first ER visit, not the riskier symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. Duncan was diagnosed with a low-risk infection and sent home, Lester said.