Ongoing Efforts to Limit Ebola in Texas

October 4, 2014
Davy James, Associate Editor

Texas health care officials have ordered close relatives of the Dallas Ebola patient to stay home.

Health care officials in Texas are working to contain the spread of the Ebola virus after the first positive case of the disease in the United States was confirmed earlier this week.

The patient, who has been identified as Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan, may have come into contact with up to 100 people after a Dallas hospital mistakenly sent him home on September 26, 2014, when he initially reported symptoms of the virus. As a result, Dallas County health officials have placed 4 of Duncan’s close family members under quarantine in their home in an effort to halt a potential outbreak.

“We have tried-and-true protocols to protect the public and stop the spread of this disease,” said David Lakey, MD, Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, in a press release. “This order gives us the ability to monitor the situation in the most meticulous way.”

Unless otherwise approved by the local or state health department, Duncan’s family members are legally required to remain at home without visitors until the incubation period has passed and they are no longer at risk of having the virus.

Ebola-infected individuals are only contagious when they show symptoms, which occur approximately 1 week after initial exposure to the virus. The incubation period for the disease ranges from 2 to 21 days, with the most common symptoms including fever, headache, vomiting, diarrhea, joint and muscle pain, and weakness.

Officials are trying to determine how many individuals may have come into direct contact with Duncan during and after a commercial flight from Liberia to Dallas last month. However, Duncan did not have a fever or display any other symptoms of the virus when he flew home.

The Associated Press has reported that Duncan will be prosecuted by Liberian authorities for lying on a questionnaire that he had not cared for a patient or touched anyone who had died from Ebola. There have not yet been any reports of an individual who Duncan came into contact with exhibiting symptoms of the virus.

“The only person who’s had symptoms is Mr. Duncan, who’s in the hospital,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins in a report published by the Washington Post. “And no one who has been around Mr. Duncan in the time he has been symptomatic has shown any indication of having contracted Ebola.”

To date, the Ebola epidemic in West Africa has killed more than 3300 people with more than 7100 confirmed and suspected cases, according to the World Health Organization.

Yesterday, National Nurses United urged hospital across the United States to improve their emergency preparedness protocols for potential cases of the virus.

“At a rally of 1000 nurses last week in Las Vegas, we warned that it was just a matter of time in an interconnected world that we would see Ebola in the US,” said the group’s executive director, RoseAnn DeMoro, in a press release. “Now, everyone should recognize that Texas is not an island, either, and, as we’ve heard from nurses across the US, hospitals here are not ready to confront this deadly disease.”