Finger-pointing and red tape now follow the screw-ups behind the spread of ebola in Dallas, Texas. A series of he-said/she-said’s has been exposed, and now hospital and public health officials are scrambling to sort things out, while a Hazmat contractor is awaiting approval on permits to start clean-up.
In the meantime, the number of people who may have come into contact with the man identified as the first victim of the disease on American soil, Thomas E. Duncan, has grown from a few to 100!
The New York Times reported yesterday:
More than six months after an outbreak of Ebola began its rampage through West Africa, local and federal health officials have displayed an uneven and flawed response to the first case diagnosed in the United States.
In the latest indication, state and local authorities confirmed Thursday that a week after a Liberian man fell ill with Ebola in Dallas, and four days after he was placed in isolation at a hospital here, the apartment where he was staying with four other people had not been sanitized and the sheets and dirty towels he used while sick remained in the home. County officials visited the apartment without protection Wednesday night
The officials said it had been difficult to find a contractor willing to enter the apartment to clean it and remove bedding and clothes, which they said had been bagged in plastic. They said they now had hired a firm that would do the work soon. The Texas health commissioner, Dr. David Lakey, told reporters during an afternoon news conference that officials had encountered “a little bit of hesitancy” in seeking a firm to clean the apartment.
The delay came amid reports that as many as 100 people could have had contact with the victim, Thomas E. Duncan. And it came a day after the hospital acknowledged it had misdiagnosed him when he first visited.
When Mr. Duncan, 42, was first taken to the emergency room at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on Sept. 25, he was examined and sent home with antibiotics by doctors who apparently did not suspect Ebola. A nurse had learned from Mr. Duncan that he had traveled from Liberia, one of three African countries where the virus is rampant, but that detail apparently was not communicated to the rest of his medical team, hospital officials said.
The woman with whom Mr. Duncan was staying told CNN that she had been with him the first time he sought treatment at the hospital and that she had twice emphatically told workers there he had been in Liberia.
The international air travel system has also proved to have porous screening procedures that rely heavily on the honesty of travelers and the diligence of airport workers. The chairman of the Liberian national airport authority, Binyah Kesselly, said Thursday that Mr. Duncan had been deceptive about his exposure to the virus when he flew out of Roberts International Airport in Monrovia on Sept. 19.
Mr. Kesselly said that Mr. Duncan, who was screened before boarding and did not have a fever, answered “no” to a question about whether he had had contact with any person who might have been stricken with Ebola in the past 21 days. That is the maximum period of incubation for Ebola.
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