Dallas County’s health department said that a possible second Ebola patient who was in close contact with the first patient is now being monitored in the hospital. The first patient has also been identified as Thomas Eric Duncan; he was traveling from Liberia.
WFAA reports that the sister of the Texas Ebola patient said her brother was seen by a Dallas emergency room on Thursday but was subsequently sent home for a low-grade infection. The patient told relatives that he had notified officials the first time he went to the hospital that he was visiting from Liberia.
Mai Wureh said her brother, Thomas Eric Duncan, went to a Dallas emergency room on Thursday and they sent him home with antibiotics. Duncan told his sister that hospital officials asked for his Social Security number and he said that he didn’t have one because he was visiting from Liberia. At a news conference Wednesday, Dr. Mark Lester confirmed that what the sister said was true. Lester notes that a nurse had asked Duncan on his first visit whether he had been in an area affected by the Ebola outbreak. However, Duncan was only showing a few signs of Ebola during the first visit which lead to an improper diagnosis.
Unfortunately, the hospital released Duncan with antibiotics while he was still contagious. It was not until Duncan returned to the emergency room on Sunday that the hospital identified him as having a possible Ebola infection. The delayed diagnosis put Duncan in contact with family members during a period in which he could have passed the virus on to others. The health department is now monitoring five children, three paramedics that treated Duncan and numerous other family members who were in close contact with him.
According to USA Today, a second possible Ebola patient that was in close contact with Duncan has also been identified and is currently being held in the Dallas hospital. Following that announcement Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services, said the situation is one that should be taken very seriously.
“Let me be real frank to the Dallas County residents: The fact that we have one confirmed case, there may be another case that is a close associate with this particular patient. So this is real. There should be a concern, but it’s contained to the specific family members and close friends at this moment.”
The children who were in contact with the Texas Ebola patient are being monitored at home and have been removed from school. Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Mike Miles said students at the schools “possibly had contact with the patient” and attended classes at the schools earlier this week. Miles said none of the students have exhibited any symptoms of Ebola at this time.
All those who were in close contact with Duncan will be monitored by the Dallas health department for 21 days following possible exposure. Meanwhile, the hospital has said Duncan’s condition has worsened and is now in “serious condition.”