Texas officials are monitoring a second patient for possible signs of Ebola, less than 24 hours after they said one man who traveled from Liberia to the U.S. has tested positive for the disease.
The first patient also had contact with five students who attend four different public schools, officials said.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry confirmed during a press conference Wednesday that “some school-age children” had been identified as coming into direct contact with the unidentified Ebola victim. He also said that the children were being monitored closely and the situation was being taken very seriously.
“This is all hands on deck,” said Perry. “We understand that, and we’ve got great local partners, and everyone as their marching orders and understands the importance of good collaborations good partnering from the local level all the way up to the CDC.”
Dallas School Supt. Mike Miles addressed the issue of students being exposed.
“The safety of our students, our parents and our community is our No. 1 priority. We were informed that these five students could have possibly been in contact with the patient at the home over the weekend and they have been in school since then.”
He said he’s been told the students have no symptoms.
“They’re at home and are being monitored by Dallas County Health Services,” he said,
He said disinfectants work, and additional custodial staff members are being added.
“Business as usual, school will be in session.”
Jon Dahlander, a spokesman with the school district, told WFAA Dallas that they will be working directly with the health department to try and isolate anyone who may have been infected.
“They are consulting with the county on any additional action that may need to be taken during the course of investigation,” he told the TV station.
“This is part of routine emergency operations during a health incident in the county. This is same protocol taken during things like flu and tuberculosis cases.”
WFAA-TV in Dallas reported the students are from Conrad High School, Tasby Middle School, Hotchkiss Elementary and Dan. D. Rogers Elementary. School officials confirmed the students had been in their classes until just before the diagnosis.
Zachary Thompson, head of the Dallas County Health and Human Services, told WFAA on Wednesday: “Let me be real frank to the Dallas County residents. The fact that we have one confirmed case, there may be another case that is a close associate with this particular patient. So this is real.”
He said there “should be a concern, but it’s contained to the specific family members and close friends at this moment.”
Officials had this to say when asked why the patient was originally turned away when he first went to seek medical help: “We are investigating, I can’t give you specific information.”
According to the AP, authorities said the man and his family members are included in the 12 to 18 people being monitored.
The man, in isolation at Texas Presbyterian Hospital, traveled by air from Liberia to the U.S. on United Airlines Flight 951 from Brussels to Washington’s Dulles International Airport and then connected to its Flight 822 to Dallas.
According to Reuters, he told officials when he first went to the hospital, and was turned away, that he was from West Africa.
Dr. Edward Goodman, an infectious disease specialist, said Tuesday the patient had arrived at the hospital with “non-specific symptoms,” was given a prescription for antibiotics and sent home.
Two days later he returned by ambulance, officials said.
Dr. Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota told Reuters the lag is “critical.”
“It is going to be very important to go back and look at this and ask basic questions about what happened and could it have been handled differently,” he said.
On Tuesday, WND reported the Centers for Disease Control confirmed a “critically ill” person in Dallas had been diagnosed with Ebola.
Officials said the first case of Ebola in the United States, other than those brought from abroad for special treatment, was in “strict isolation” at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.
Doctors refused to answer questions about whether the patient is a U.S. citizen, saying only “he’s visiting family who live in this country.”
“We got the result back at 1:22 p.m. CT this afternoon that the patient has Ebola, and we want to emphasize at this point, we have no other information any other person is affected,” said Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. David Lakey on Tuesday. “We are committed to make sure Texas is safe.”
On Sept. 20, the patient arrived in the U.S. on a flight from Liberia, CDC officials said.
In a press conference Tuesday, CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said: “He began developing symptoms several days after arriving in the United States and was hospitalized. Today we determined the patient has Ebola.”
Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are the focus of the unprecedented outbreak, which has already taken 2,800 lives and could kill as many as 1.4 million by the end of January, according to the CDC. WND has reported on the danger of spreading Ebola by international air travel, because Ebola symptoms can take up to 21 days to manifest after a person has been infected.
The patient reportedly showed no symptoms while traveling, which, the CDC said, meant “zero risk” of infecting other passengers on the same flight. The government agency refused to say whether the individual flew on a commercial airplane or to identify the patient’s flight number.
“The next steps are threefold,” Frieden said. “First, the care for the patient must be provided at the highest level possible and as safely as possible to keep at an absolute minimum the possibility anybody else could become infected and to maximize the chances that the patient might recover. Second, we identify all people who may have had contact with the patient while he could have been infectious.
“Once all the persons the patient contacted are identified, they are monitored for 21 days after exposure to see if they develop fever. If they develop fever, the same criteria are used to isolate them and make sure they are cared for as well as possible so they maximize their chances of recovery and to minimize or eliminate the chance that they might infect other people.”
Also, the Dallas station reported a woman who said she is a sister of the sick man told relatives he notified officials the first time he went to the hospital that he was visiting from Liberia.”
“Mai Wureh says her brother, Thomas Eric Duncan, went to a Dallas emergency room on Friday, and they sent him home with antibiotics. She says he said hospital officials asked for his Social Security number, and he said that he didn’t have one, because he was visiting from Liberia,” the report said.
Last week, WND reported the Obama administration’s unwillingness to ban air travel from the West African nations hit by the Ebola outbreak was leaving the U.S. vulnerable to the disease.
“Until it’s clear that the outbreak has stopped, no one from those three countries should be permitted to enter the U.S. and all visa issuance should be suspended,” contended Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies.
As WND reported, the United Nations World Health Organization has argued vigorously that cutting commercial airline service to the affected West African nations would only intensify the severity of the Ebola epidemic by restricting the ability of international health organizations to send qualified health professionals and supplies to the region to help combat the disease.
WND also reported Dr. Lee Hieb, former president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, warned that quarantine and fly restriction measures should be taken to prevent Ebola from coming to America.
“You don’t get Ebola from Europe,” she told WND. “You get Ebola from Africa. And it’s a really simple formula: Don’t let people fly to America if they’ve been to areas where there’s an outbreak. When there’s an outbreak, stop air [traffic] flow.”
The CDC has issued a traveler’s alert for all U.S. residents “to avoid travel to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leon because of unprecedented outbreaks of Ebola in those countries.”
In the press conference Tuesday, the CDC stressed that all passengers traveling from West Africa would be screened prior to getting on any airplane to make ensure they’re not showing symptoms of Ebola.
“As long as Ebola continues as an epidemic in Africa, the reality is that people travel and, like in this case, individuals may travel before they have any symptoms,” Frieden said. “One of the things that CDC has done in the affected West African countries is to work with the airport authorities so 100 percent of the individuals getting on airplanes are screened for fever before they get on an airplane.
“If they have fever, they are pulled out of the line and not permitted to fly. No one flies until Ebola is ruled out, so the other passengers are safe in transit and the airlines are willing to keep flying. But that doesn’t rule out a situation like this one where someone was exposed, but they went flying while they were incubating the disease, and were not yet showing symptoms.”
The CDC said existing procedures for air travel are safe, and there is no current plan to terminate or curtail air travel from West Africa.
Anyone concerned about possible exposure should call 800-CDC-INFO for more information.