Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the United States, died today at 7:51 AM.
Duncan was being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where he was admitted into isolation on September 28. On October 4, he reportedly began receiving the experimental drug brincidofovir, manufactured by Chimerix. On Tuesday, the hospital reported that Duncan was on a ventilator and that his kidneys were failing.
“Mr. Duncan succumbed to an insidious disease, Ebola. He fought courageously in this battle,” the hospital said in a statement Wednesday. “Our professionals, the doctors and nurses in the unit, as well as the entire Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas community, are also grieving his passing.”
“The past week has been an enormous test of our health system, but for one family it has been far more personal,” Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, said in a statement. “The doctors, nurses, and staff at Presbyterian provided excellent and compassionate care, but Ebola is a disease that attacks the body in many ways. We’ll continue every effort to contain the spread of the virus and protect people from this threat.”
As the incubation period for people who came in contact with Duncan comes to an end with no new Ebola diagnoses, Dallas officials are urging the city’s citizens to remain calm. “The concern right now is that the stress of this, and the fear of this, could be more damaging to this community than the virus itself,” said Lakey.
In a separate development, following a briefing by Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), President Barack Obama said that new screening measures for the virus at United States and West African airports will be announced shortly.
“We’re also going to be working on protocols to do additional, faster screening both at the source and here in the United States,” said Obama.
Frieden did not disclose what form the screenings would take, but he said several options are being evaluated.
The New York Times reported that federal officials said today they would begin temperature screenings of passengers arriving from West Africa at five American airports, beginning with Kennedy International in New York as early as this weekend. Travelers at the four other airports — Washington Dulles International, O’Hare International, Hartsfield-Jackson International, and Newark Liberty International — will be screened starting next week, according to federal officials.
Meanwhile, Obama also urged other countries to provide more assistance in battling Ebola, which as of this writing has caused at least 3,439 deaths in West Africa.
Temperature screening at Guinea’s Conakry Maritime Port
The CDC issued a recommendation that all United States residents avoid nonessential travel to Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. The CDC also advised that any travelers to these countries protect themselves by avoiding contact with the blood and body fluids of people who are sick.
The World Bank issued a report warning that Ebola could cause up to $33 billion in losses for West Africa’s economy. “A swift policy reaction by the international community is crucial,” said the World Bank in a statement.
Teresa Romero Ramos, a nurse’s assistant, has been identified by Spanish media outlets as the first person to contract Ebola outside of West Africa. Ramos treated Manuel Garcia Viejo, a priest in Madrid who died on September 25 of Ebola after contracting the virus while doing missionary work in Sierra Leone.
Viejo was treated in Madrid’s Carlos III hospital, where he had been in quarantine. Ramos reportedly went into his room once to treat him, and a second time to get his belongings after he died. She also helped to treat another priest, Miguel Pajares, who had been working in Liberia when he contracted Ebola. He died five days after being airlifted to Spain on August 7.
Viejo’s husband, a nurse, and another nurse’s assistant from the same hospital are also being monitored for Ebola. Another nurse, who has tested negative for the virus, and an engineer were expected to be discharged.
Health workers prepare to enter an Ebola treatment unit
Meanwhile, teams who are responsible for burying the bodies of Ebola victims in two districts of Sierra Leone are reportedly on strike because they have not received their weekly risk allowances. A Reuters report said that according to the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation, bodies of Ebola victims were being left in homes and on the streets of Freetown by burial teams. The teams bury between 17 and 35 bodies every day. Each team member earns about $100 a week.
Ashoka Mukpo, 33, the American freelance journalist who contracted Ebola while working in Liberia, is now at Nebraska Medical Center where he is being treated with the drug brincidofovir.
Mukpo’s parents have given several media interviews, saying that Mukpo still has fever and some nausea, but is in good spirits. Dr. Mitchell Levy, Mukpo’s father, said Mukpo doesn’t know how he contracted Ebola, but he thinks contamination may have splashed on him when he was spray washing something.
Mukpo will receive donated blood from American Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly.
Meanwhile, Bethesda Magazine reports that a doctor who was exposed to the Ebola virus while working at a treatment unit in Sierra Leone was discharged from the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland on Tuesday. He had a high-risk exposure from a needle stick injury and was admitted to the center on September 28 for observation, but he does not have Ebola.
Thumbnail photo of temperature screening using an infrared thermometer. Photos courtesy of CDC Global/CC