Thomas Eric Duncan has been named as the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. Duncan, 42, is from Monrovia, Liberia, and was on his first trip to the United States when he developed symptoms of the deadly disease. According to public health officials, Duncan is in stable condition in a Dallas hospital. Duncan flew to America from Liberia via Belgium, on a United Airlines flight, first landing in Washington, D.C., before continuing to Texas, reports CBS Dallas.
Here’s what we know about Duncan:
1. He Likely Contracted Ebola Trying to Save a Pregnant Woman’s Life
The Times reports that on September 15, five days before his arrival in the U.S., Duncan helped a neighbor, Marthalene Williams, get to the hospital in a taxi. She was seven months pregnant, convulsing and vomiting. Williams died on September 20 at home after being turned away from the hospital due to overcrowding. She had contracted Ebola.
When she was being brought into the hospital, she was so weak Duncan had to carry her. Ebola is spread through contact with bodily fluids. Two other people who came in contact with Williams contracted Ebola and subsequently died. One of those was Marthalene Williams’ brother, Sonny Boy. He was in the taxi with Duncan and Marthalene. The Williams family were Duncan’s landlords; he rented a small room from them in Monrovia.
Duncan was on his first visit to the U.S., visiting his sister, Mai Wureh, in Texas. During his time here, Duncan stayed with the family at the Ivy Apartments on Fair Oaks Avenue in Dallas, reports the Associated Press.
According to the New York Times, Duncan worked for a shipping company, Safeway Cargo, in Liberia but resigned earlier in September 2013. He was able to get a Visa to the United States so decided to go. Safeway Cargo is the customs agent for FedEx in Liberia.
2. He Was Sent Home From the ER on September 26 & Finally Hospitalized 2 Days Later
Duncan arrived in the U.S. on September 20 and began to feel unwell on September 24. Finally, on September 28, he was admitted to Texas Presbyterian hospital. He was diagnosed with Ebola on September 30.
Duncan had gone to the hospital’s emergency room on September 26 but was sent home with antibiotics, even after telling a nurse he had been in Liberia. The hospital has come under intense scrutiny for this failure to recognize the public health hazard. My Fox Dallas reports that Dr. Mark Lester of Texas Presbyterian said that upon first assessment, doctors felt that Duncan only had a “low-grade common viral disease.”
Duncan returned to the hospital two days later, this time in an ambulance, his symptoms far more severe.
Duncan’s nephew, Josephus Weeks, told NBC that he had to personally call the CDC to alert the agency to Duncan’s condition and the danger it posed to the community:
I called CDC to get some actions taken, because I was concerned for his life and he wasn’t getting the appropriate care. I feared other people might also get infected if he wasn’t taken care of, and so I called them to ask them why is it a patient that might be suspected of this disease was not getting appropriate care?
3. He Has a Son in the U.S.
The New York Times reports that Duncan told friends that he had a son in the U.S. Heavy.com found a Facebook page for a young man named Eric Duncan in the Dallas area. He is a friend on social media of Mai Wureh, Thomas Eric Duncan’s sister.
4. He Had Contact With Some 100 People in U.S. — Including Kids Who Attend 4 Schools
According to a statement from the Dallas Independent School district, Duncan came into contact with five children from four different schools. The schools affected are Emmett J. Conrad High School (the high school that Eric Duncan says he attended), Sam Tasby Middle School, L.L. Hotchkiss Elementary School and Dan D. Rogers Elementary. Those students are not exhibiting any symptoms but have been told to stay home from school as a precaution.
Dr. Christopher Perkins, from the Dallas Department of Health and Human Services, told the media that there were five people staying at the same home as Duncan. Dallas Morning News reports the family has been confined to their home, with visitors prohibited.
In total, Duncan is believed to have been in contact with some 100 people during his stay in the U.S.
A Texas Department of State Health Services spokesperson said:
We are working from a list of about 100 potential or possible contacts and will soon have an official contact tracing number that will be lower. Out of an abundance of caution, we’re starting with this very wide net, including people who have had even brief encounters with the patient or the patient’s home.
5. Duncan Is Not Receiving the Drug Used to Treat Americans Who Recovered From Ebola
Doctors have not been specific on how Duncan is being treated, just that there is no more ZMapp available to them. That’s the experimental drug being used to treat Ebola patients, including at least two infected Americans who were recently evacuated from Liberia.
Federal and charity officials are working to boost production of the drug through “multiple manufacturers.”