The man who was diagnosed with Ebola in a Dallas hospital earlier this week is 42-year-old Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan, according to family members and health officials.
Duncan flew to the US to stay with family members just days after he helped care for a friend who was stricken with Ebola in Liberia, The New York Times reports.
The woman he helped take to a hospital, 19-year-old Marthalene Williams, was turned away from the hospital because there was no space for her in their Ebola ward. According to The Times, Duncan helped carry her home, where she later died.
Duncan then started developing symptoms of the disease once he arrived in the US. He went to a Dallas emergency room and told a nurse that he had recently been in West Africa — a region that has been ravaged by an unprecedented Ebola epidemic — but that information was not “fully communicated” to the rest of his medical team. Duncan was diagnosed with a minor infection and sent away from the hospital.
He returned days later via ambulance, when his symptoms had worsened considerably. Duncan is the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the US.
Duncan was screened for Ebola before getting on a plane in Liberia to come to the US, but he had no symptoms at that time and passed the screening, CNN reports. Ebola is only contagious when someone is visibly ill. It is spread via bodily fluids, not the air, making it much easier to contain than something like a flu.
Duncan is now in serious condition at a Dallas hospital.
Officials believe that 80 people came into contact with Duncan and his family in the US, including some school children. They’re being interviewed by the Dallas County Health Department.
A Liberian community leader in Dallas told CNN that Duncan was visiting with his girlfriend and her children while he was in Dallas, and witnesses told Reuters that they saw him vomiting outside an apartment complex before he was loaded into an ambulance.
The disease begins with flu-like symptoms and in many cases escalates to internal and external bleeding and organ failure.
Ebola has a high fatality rate. It has killed 3,338 and infected at least 7,178 people in West Africa so far, and those numbers continue to climb.
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