In a matter of an hour or so on Wednesday night, a minor case of Ebola has shaken the health system of the United States of America. Now from The New York Times: Scrutiny in Texas to Detect Whether Ebola Has Spread. Excerpt:
Mr. Duncan flew on Sept. 19 from Monrovia to Brussels, where, according to United Airlines, he took Flight 951 to Washington Dulles Airport and continued to Dallas/Fort Worth on Flight 822, arriving Sept. 20. Here in Dallas, the case was being handled with extraordinary caution and raised widespread concern.
There was no indication of panic among residents in the largely Hispanic and African neighborhood where Mr. Duncan was staying in the Fair Oaks section of the city. But misinformation about how the disease spreads was everywhere, even as local, state and federal health officials continued to make clear that Ebola is not an airborne illness and is not spread through casual contact but through direct contact with the bodily fluids of a sick person.
“We’re confident that it’s isolated and it’s being contained, but everyone is working tirelessly to double- and triple- and quadruple-check their work, to make sure that we’ve done an absolutely thorough job of identifying anyone who might be at any risk,” said the top elected official of Dallas County, County Judge Clay Jenkins.
Some members of the Liberian community in the Dallas area said that given the spread of the disease in their home country, they were skeptical of the health information being released publicly, adding that public gatherings were being canceled out of fear of possible contagion.
At an African cafe down the street from the apartment complex where Mr. Duncan had been staying with relatives and a middle school attended by one or two of the students being monitored, a group of Ethiopian men and women sat talking at a table outside. No one knew Mr. Duncan or his family, and one woman was unfamiliar with Ebola and its effects.
“I touch you like this,” a man told her, tapping her on the knee, “and you get Ebola.”
Officials said Wednesday that they believed Mr. Duncan came into contact with 12 to 18 people when he was experiencing active symptoms and when the disease was contagious, and that the daily monitoring of those people had not yet shown them to be infected.
When Mr. Duncan first arrived at the hospital last Friday, six days after he had arrived in America, he told a nurse that he had come from West Africa. Public health officials have been urging doctors and nurses to be on the alert for Ebola in anyone who has been in Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone.
But information about Mr. Duncan’s travel was not “fully communicated” to the full medical team, said Dr. Mark Lester, executive vice president of Texas Health Resources, the parent organization that oversees Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.
As a result, that information was not used in the clinical diagnosis and Mr. Duncan was sent home, with the diagnostic team believing he simply had a low-grade fever from a viral infection, Dr. Lester said.
The five students who came into contact with Mr. Duncan attend four Dallas-area public schools. They have been advised to stay home from school. The students — at a high school, a middle school and two elementary schools — are under observation by county health officials.
“The students don’t have symptoms, so the odds of passing on the virus is very low,” said Mike Miles, the Dallas district’s superintendent.
Maybe this will all seem less dramatic on Thursday morning. I hope so. But right now, it looks as if MSF should be setting up an Ebola treatment unit in downtown Dallas. God knows the locals don't seem able to handle it.