A man stricken with Ebola in Dallas — the first person to be diagnosed with the virus on U.S. soil — remained in critical condition, and a missing low-risk contact was located by police, city and health officials said Sunday.
Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during Sunday’s press briefing that the patient has “taken a turn for the worse.” Thomas Eric Duncan, 42, was first downgraded from serious to critical condition Saturday.
Also Sunday, the homeless man who rode in the ambulance that took Duncan to Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas was located at noon and taken to Parkland Hospital for a mental health evaluation, city spokeswoman Sana Syed said. Michael Lively was found to be asymptomatic for Ebola, but he has mental health issues that prompted the city and county to hold him until another place can be found for him to stay for the 21-day incubation period, she said, adding that he will not be taken to a homeless shelter.
Sunday marked a week since Duncan’s diagnosis. He came from Liberia to Dallas on Sept. 20 to visit family at the Ivy Apartments, 7225 Fair Oaks Ave. in Dallas, and to get married. He went to the emergency room with fever and abdominal pain Sept. 25 and returned Sept. 28 after his symptoms grew worse. He has been in isolation at the hospital since then.
Frieden said at the press briefing that experimental medicine is not being used in Duncan’s case. He said one of the experimental medications, ZMapp, is not available because it takes a long time to make. The other, he said, can make patients worse.
At the Ivy Apartments, a Fort Worth company was still working in shifts 24 hours a day to clean up the unit where Duncan’s fiance, Louise Troh, lived and where Duncan stayed before he was diagnosed, the company’s owner said Sunday.
The Cleaning Guys crew will finish decontaminating the apartment at around 5 a.m. Monday, said Brad Smith, company vice president.
Smith said workers have encountered an “extreme amount” of items at the apartment, including clothes, open food, chairs and electronics, to be triple-bagged and removed by morning. Separate agencies will transport the belongings to a location where they can be destroyed.
About 20 containers were filled with linens and other items, according to The Associated Press. The containers were being stored “in an extremely safe and secure location, and guarded by Dallas County Sheriff’s deputies,” said Syed.
Smith said the company went one step past the CDC’s recommendations, for safety’s sake. “You can bet we are cautious,” he said.
“When I received the call the nerves were flowing,” Smith said. “It has never been done in Texas. It’s never been done in the U.S.”
Smith said he’s prepared to do it again.
“If it can happen, it will happen,” he said.
The number of people who had contact with Duncan is at 10 with definite exposure and 38 with possible exposure, according to the CDC. Those with definite exposure include Troh, her 13-year-old son and two young men, one a relative and one a friend. All are quarantined in a home donated for their use in a gated community.
Duncan’s diagnosis has the CDC ramping up its communications with the nation’s healthcare professionals to make sure the Ebola issue stays at the forefront, Frieden said Sunday.
He also said that before Duncan’s diagnosis, the CDC received about 50 calls or emails a day about Ebola. Now, he said, it’s up to 800.
Charges still considered
Dallas County prosecutors are still deciding whether to bring charges against Duncan after reports that he had contact with a woman who ended up dying of Ebola in Liberia and later lied about that contact before boarding a plane to the United States.
“We are actively having discussions as to whether or not we need to look into this as it relates to a criminal matter,” Dallas County’s district attorney, Craig Watkins, said on Lone Star Politics on NBC 5 on Sunday. “We’re working with all the different agencies to get to the bottom of it.” He did not elaborate on what the charges would be.
Watkins’ spokeswoman, Debbie Denmon, said that the district attorney’s office is proceeding cautiously.
“On a humanitarian note, it would be cruel and inhumane to go after a person on their death bed, but at the same time the Dallas County DA’s office would want to show that there are consequences to entering the country by falsifying documents and then knowingly putting the public at risk,” Denmon said in a statement.
Some of the Liberians in the Dallas-Fort Worth area have been on edge about encountering anyone who may have come into contact with Duncan. Stanley Gaye, president of the Liberian Community Association of Dallas-Fort Worth, said some Liberian immigrants told him they were concerned about being tested for Ebola because they feared being placed in isolation and having to skip work for the three-week incubation period.
“They’re afraid to lose their jobs,” he said. “People have to put food on the table.”
This report contains material from The Associated Press.