None of the 48 people who had contact with Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan have shown any symptoms of the deadly virus, state and local health officials said Tuesday.
David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, said officials are keeping close tabs on 10 “high-risk” contacts and monitoring 38 “low-risk” individuals for fever or other symptoms.
“Honestly, this is a very critical week,” Lakey said. “A lot of monitoring has to take place.”
Lakey said plans are in place to isolate and monitor any individuals who develop a fever or show other symptoms.
At the Dallas County Commissioners Court meeting, Christopher Perkins, the medical director for the county’s Health and Human Services Department, warned that many start to show symptoms within “8 to 10 days” of contact.
Duncan arrived in Dallas on Sept. 20 and fell ill a few days later. He went to the emergency room at Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas Hospital on Sept. 25, but was discharged. He returned two days later and was diagnosed with Ebola on Sept. 30.
Duncan, 42, who flew here from Liberia, remains in critical condition. He is on a ventilator and receiving kidney dialysis, health officials said Tuesday, while also getting an experimental antiviral drug that doctors hope will help him recover.
Candace White, a Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital spokeswoman, said that Duncan’s liver function, which had declined over the weekend, had improved.
The hospital said Tuesday that Duncan would continue to receive the experimental drug, brincidofovir, which is being developed by the biotechnology company Chimerix and is being tested against various viruses in clinical trials.
Duncan had stayed with his girlfriend, Louise Troh, and other family members at The Ivy Apartments in Dallas before being hospitalized. Troh and the three other family members who had been quarantined in the apartment were moved out Friday to an undisclosed location.
Zachary Thompson, Dallas County’s Health and Human Services director, is asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct an assessment of the northeast Dallas complex — or recommend someone else to do one. He said the assessment is needed for the “comfort level” of the residents at the apartment complex.
“I’m sure there may be questions about the apartment’s safety for those who live adjacent to that unit,” Thompson said. “I want an assessment done, especially for that area of the complex. I would hope it could be done pretty quick.”
‘Don’t get a second chance’
Brad Smith, vice president of the Fort Worth-based The Cleaning Guys that conducted the cleanup of the apartment, said he believes the unit poses no risk.
“I think that apartment is safe the way it is now, but again that’s not my call,” Smith said. “We used more than one method. We did what we were asked to do.”
Smith said his company is ready to respond if more Ebola cleanup is needed in Dallas County. And he expects to hear from county officials if any more cases develop.
As for his employees, he believes they are safe after decontaminating the apartment.
“I can tell you we are trained to do bio-cleanups,” Smith said. “We also train to deal with gases. We used every type of protective gear while we were in there. We go at it like we don’t get a second chance.”
At an afternoon press conference, Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, once again assured the public that health officials know how to stop the virus from spreading but it will take “a long, hard fight” to stop its spread in Africa and other parts of the world.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson presided over a prayer vigil at Duncan’s hospital.
Jackson spoke in Dallas on Tuesday alongside the mother, son and other relatives of Thomas Eric Duncan.
Duncan is in critical condition at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. Jackson joined the family when they met with doctors later Tuesday to discuss Duncan. He’s been in isolation since his diagnosis last week.
The civil rights leader also called on the public to show compassion to Duncan and his family, not to ostracize them.
The family again visited Duncan at the hospital Tuesday, but they declined to view him via video as they did the last time. On a Monday visit, the relatives glimpsed him using a video system at the hospital. But when they returned anew, this time with Jackson, they decided such images were too much.
“What we saw was very painful. It didn’t look good,” said Duncan’s nephew, Josephus Weeks.
Weeks said he and Duncan’s mother were unable to sleep after seeing Duncan’s face.
This report includes material from The New York Times and The Associated Press.