DALLAS (AFP/REUTERS) – US health officials scoured the Dallas area Wednesday for people – including schoolchildren – who came in contact with a Liberian man diagnosed with Ebola, as it emerged a hospital mix-up saw him initially turned away.
More people may have been exposed to the contagious man after he first sought treatment on September 25 because an apparent miscommunication among staff resulted in his release back into the community for several days, Texas hospital officials admitted.
Ebola is spread through close contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, and can only be transmitted when a patient is showing symptoms like fever, aches, bleeding, vomiting or diarrohea.
The man – the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola on US soil – flew from Liberia, the hardest-hit nation in West Africa’s deadly Ebola outbreak, and arrived in Texas September 20 to visit family. He fell ill on September 24.
He went to the hospital the next day but was sent home because the medical team “felt clinically it was a low-grade common viral disease,” said Mark Lester, executive vice president of Texas Health Resources.
Two days after he was sent home, the man was seen vomiting on the ground outside an apartment complex as he was bundled into an ambulance.
“His whole family was screaming. He got outside and he was throwing up all over the place,” resident Mesud Osmanovic, 21, said on Wednesday, describing the chaotic scene before the man was admitted to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on Sundaywhere he is in serious condition.
The hospital cited the stricken man’s privacy as the reasonfor not identifying him. However, Gee Melish, who said he was a family friend, identified the man as Thomas Eric Duncan.
A hospital statement issued later said his initial symptoms on September 25 were “low-grade fever and abdominal pain,” and that “his condition did not warrant admission.”
The patient is currently in serious but stable condition.
He came in contact with five school children before he returned via ambulance to the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas on September 28, and was placed in strict isolation.