Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person in the United States diagnosed with Ebola, died Wednesday morning at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, hospital officials said.
“Mr. Duncan succumbed to an insidious disease, Ebola. He fought courageously in this battle,” hospital spokesman Wendell Watson said in a statement.
Duncan, who flew to the United States from the West African nation of Liberia, was admitted to Presbyterian hospital on Sept. 28 and placed in isolation to receive intensive care after being diagnosed with the Ebola virus. Duncan’s condition worsened on Saturday, when the hospital announced that he had been downgraded from serious condition to critical condition. He had started receiving an experimental treatment for the Ebola virus, which has no known cure, that same day, and the hospital announced on Tuesday that he had been put on a ventilator and was receiving kidney dialysis. His liver function had declined over the weekend.
Meanwhile, health officials are closely monitoring about 50 people in the Dallas area for possible contraction of the virus. Ten of those people are considered “high risk,” including four of Duncan’s family members, who remain quarantined.
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Officials have said that the individuals who are being monitored are not showing any symptoms of the virus, which include fever, diarrhea and abdominal pain, but public health officials are paying twice-daily visits to each of those 50 individuals to check their temperature and inquire about possible symptoms.
Ebola is not easily spread because it can only be transmitted through direct exposure to the bodily fluids — including blood, sweat, saliva, vomit and diarrhea — of someone who is carrying the virus and is showing symptoms.
Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner David Lakey said in a statement that the state would “continue every effort to contain the spread of the virus” and expressed condolences for Duncan’s family.
“This past week has been an enormous test of our health system, but for one family it has been far more personal,” Lakey said.
In response to the Ebola case, Texas lawmakers have zeroed in on the preparedness of the state’s public health system. Earlier this week, Gov. Rick Perry announced the creation of the Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response to make recommendations on how to better handle a potential outbreak of Ebola or other infectious diseases.
And members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday questioned public health officials about the response to Thomas’ initial diagnosis. Duncan was sent home during his first visit to the hospital on Sept. 26 with a prescription for antibiotics even though he had told hospital staff that he had traveled from Africa.