Ebola patient dies in Texas and U.S. orders airport screenings

The U.S. government has been under pressure from lawmakers to enhance screening and even ban flights from some West African countries after a Liberian national was diagnosed in the United States

Ebola patient dies in Texas and U.S. orders airport screenings

World Bulletin/News Desk

The first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States died on Wednesday and the government ordered five airports screen passengers from West Africa for fever, underscoring concerns about U.S. treatment and preparedness for the virus.

The administration of President Barack Obama has been under pressure from lawmakers to enhance screening and even ban flights after Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan flew to Dallas, Texas in late September after having contact with a woman who later died of Ebola.

The White House said on Wednesday that extra screening for fever will be carried out for arriving aircraft passengers from West Africa, where the virus has killed nearly 4,000 people in three countries. The screening will start at New York's John F. Kennedy airport from the weekend, and later at Newark Liberty, Washington Dulles, Chicago O'Hare and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta.

Authorities will use a non-invasive device to take the temperature of passengers and have them fill out a questionnaire created by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asking for detailed information about their activities

Duncan had been in critical condition and on a ventilator in an isolation ward at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. He was also given an experimental medication to try to keep him alive before the hospital announced his death Wednesday morning.

A spokeswoman for a clinic in a suburb of Dallas said it was examining a man who said he had had contact with Duncan and was exhibiting symptoms.

Questions have been raised on what impact a decision by the hospital to initially discharge Duncan had on his treatment. In animal tests of experimental Ebola drugs, the chance of survival drops the longer it takes to begin treatment.

"You can have the best drug in the world and there is a point where that drug just won't work," said virologist Thomas Geisbert of the University of Texas Medical Branch, who has done pioneering work on Ebola treatments.

"There is a point where the virus has done so much damage you can't recover from it," Geisbert said.

Duncan was able to fly to the United States from Liberia's capital Monrovia because he did not have a fever when screened at the airport and filled out a questionnaire saying he had not been in contact with anyone infected with Ebola. Liberian officials have said Duncan lied on the questionnaire and had been in contact with a pregnant woman who later died.

"It is with profound sadness and heartfelt disappointment that we must inform you of the death of Thomas Eric Duncan this morning at 7:51 a.m.," hospital spokesman Wendell Watson said in an emailed statement. The hospital said he was 45.

About 48 people who had direct or indirect contact with Duncan since he arrived on Sept. 20 are being monitored, but none have yet shown any symptoms, according to health officials.

The CDC and other U.S. health officials say the chances of Ebola spreading in the United States are very slim.

Duncan's fiancée, Louise Troh, who is being quarantined, wrote in a statement: "His suffering is over. My family is in deep sadness and grief, but we leave him in the hands of God." 


The hospital has not released details on how it will handle Duncan's body but said it will follow protocols from the CDC. The guidelines recommend careful preparation of the body before movement, including enclosing it in two bags and disinfecting the bags. The body can then be transported without the need for protective gear for a driver or others who are near the body but they are not to handle the remains before cremation.

The current Ebola outbreak, the worst on record, began in March. On Wednesday, the World Health Organization updated its toll of the disease. WHO said Ebola has killed 3,879 people out of 8,033 cases by the end of Oct. 5.

Ebola can take as long as three weeks before its victims show symptoms, at which point the disease becomes contagious. Ebola, which can cause fever, vomiting and diarrhea, spreads through contact with bodily fluids such as blood or saliva.

While several American patients have been flown to the United States from West Africa for treatment, Duncan was the first person to start showing symptoms on U.S. soil.

A nurse in Spain who treated a priest who worked in West Africa is also infected.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday appealed to other governments to do more to help contain the spread of Ebola, urged countries not to shut their borders and told airlines to keep flying to West Africa.

"All of these things are frankly urgent in order to be able to quickly move to contain the spread of Ebola," Kerry said.

Shares of biotech companies linked to the development of treatments against Ebola reacted sharply on Wednesday to Duncan's death. Shares in Chimerix, whose experimental Ebola drug was being administered to Duncan, tumbled 9.5 percent to $30.08. U.S.-traded shares of Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp , whose treatment has been used in other Ebola patients, sharply pared losses, briefly turning positive after having fallen as much as 8.8 percent earlier.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 08 Ekim 2014, 23:09