The first man to be diagnosed with the Ebola virus in the United States, Thomas Eric Duncan, has died today according to Texas health officials.
“It is with profound sadness and heartfelt disappointment that we must inform you of the death of Thomas Eric Duncan this morning at 7:51 a.m. Mr. Duncan succumbed to an insidious disease, Ebola,” officials at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas said in a Facebook statement. “He fought courageously in this battle. Our professionals, the doctors and nurses in the unit, as well as the entire Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas community, are also grieving his passing. We have offered the family our support and condolences at this difficult time,” the hospital said.
Over the weekend, the 42-year-old patient had begun receiving brincidofovir, an experimental antiviral drug which recently gained emergency approval from the FDA. Asked at a news conference on Wednesday if it was true that Mr. Duncan did not get the same treatment as other Americans who have recovered after contracting the disease, a hospital official responded, “He was treated the way any other patient would have been treated, regardless of nationality or ability to pay for care.”
Duncan went from serious to critical condition in a matter of days. He grew up in Liberia and came to Dallas late in September to attend his son’s graduation. He was diagnosed with Ebola a week after that. Duncan complained about experiencing abdominal pain and visited the hospital. The hospital said Duncan told them he had not experienced nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea — strong indicators of Ebola. He was sent home and was said to have had a virus. Three days later, paramedics were called to his home and he was diagnosed. It was reported that Duncan exposed the virus to 100 people, who were being monitored. The number is now said to have dropped to 48 people who were exposed to Duncan’s Ebola.
Initially, reports said that Duncan lied about coming into contact with someone with Ebola. However, his neighbors in Monrovia told reporters that five days before his flight, Duncan helped a pregnant woman get to the hospital in a taxi. She was convulsing and vomiting. The woman died at home hours later, after being turned away from a crowded Ebola treatment ward.
Both Duncan and the health authorities are responsible here. Duncan withheld info about his condition and the health authorities claimed there was a records mix up with Duncan’s paperwork. No other explanation has been given for how the Ebola diagnosis was overlooked. Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, called the mishandling a “teachable moment” and issued a nationwide alert to all hospitals updating them on how to appropriately respond to possible Ebola cases.
RIP Thomas Eric Duncan. We hope they’re able to control potential diagnoses. Five other Americans were diagnosed with Ebola in Africa and have returned to the U.S. for treatment.