Dallas health officials reach out to 100 people at risk of Ebola exposure

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SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association) Four members of a family the U.S. Ebola patient was staying with were confined to their apartment under armed guard on Thursday.

As the circle of people possibly exposed to the virus in Dallas widened to almost 100 people, Liberian authorities said they would prosecute the man for allegedly lying on an airport questionnaire.

Thomas Eric Duncan, who is being treated for Ebola at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, will be accused of lying on a form about not having any contact with an infected person, Liberian authorities said.

Duncan filled out a series of questions about his health and activities before leaving on his journey to Dallas. On a Sept. 19 form obtained by the Associated Press, he answered no to all of them.

Among other questions, the form asked whether Duncan had cared for an Ebola patient or touched the body of anyone who had died in an area affected by Ebola.

On Sept. 15, Duncan helped carry a gravely ill woman to and from a hospital in Monrovia. She later died of Ebola, and Duncan boarded his flight on Sept. 19.

“We expect people to do the honorable thing,” said Binyah Kesselly, chairman of the board of directors of the Liberia Airport Authority in Monrovia.

The case has raised questions about whether a disease that has killed 3,300 people in West Africa could spread in the United States. U.S. health officials say they remain confident they can keep it in check.

The emergency room at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital sent Duncan home last week, even though he told a nurse that he had been in disease-ravaged West Africa. The decision to release him could have put others at risk of exposure to Ebola before he went back to the ER a couple of days later when his condition worsened.

Duncan has been kept in isolation at the hospital since Sunday. He was listed Thursday in serious but stable condition.

The unusual confinement order on the apartment where Duncan stayed in Dallas was imposed after the family there failed to comply with a request not to leave, according to Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins.

Texas State Health Commissioner David Lakey said the order would help ensure the four can be closely watched, including checking them for fevers over the next three weeks — the maximum incubation period for Ebola.

“We didn’t have the confidence we would have been able to monitor them the way that we needed to,” he said.

The family will not be allowed to receive visitors, officials said.

Authorities were also concerned about the cleanliness of the home and hired a cleaning service, Lakey said.

“The house conditions need to be improved,” he said.

A woman who lives in the apartment, Louise Troh, said she has been quarantined with her 13-year-old son and two nephews.

“Who wants to be locked up?” she said in an interview with the Associated Press.

Troh said she was waiting for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to collect a bag of the bed sheets and towels used by Duncan.

Visitors from the American Red Cross were seen Thursday bringing food to the apartment door. The North Texas Food Bank said it sent three days of cereal, tuna, produce and other supplies.

Outside the apartment, the management of the 300-unit complex in northeast Dallas was passing out fliers about Ebola to neighbors. Private security guards and local sheriff’s deputies blocked off the entrance to dozens of reporters.

Apartment manager Sally Nuran said employees were power-washing sidewalks and scrubbing common areas, though she believed Duncan had not visited most of the complex in his short time there.

Texas health officials expanded their efforts to contain the virus, reaching out to as many as 100 people who may have had direct contact with Duncan or someone close to him.

None of the people is showing symptoms, but public-health officials have educated them about Ebola and told them to notify medical workers if they begin to feel ill, Erikka Neroes, a spokeswoman for the Dallas County Health and Human Services agency, said Thursday.

The group will be monitored to see if anyone seeks medical care during the three weeks immediately following the time of contact, Neroes said.

The at-risk group includes 12 to 18 who came in direct contact with the infected man, including an ambulance crew and a handful of schoolchildren, plus others known to have had contact with them, she said.

“This is a big spider web” of people involved, Neroes said.

The virus that causes Ebola is not airborne and can only be spread through close contact with someone who has symptoms. People must come into direct contact with the patient’s bodily fluids — blood, sweat, vomit, feces, urine, saliva or semen — and those fluids must have an entry point.

Ebola dried on surfaces can survive for several hours, according to the CDC.

“If you sit next to someone on the bus, you’re not exposed,” CDC director Tom Frieden said.

 

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