The US health officials have confirmed yesterday that a male adult infected with Ebola has died. Thomas Eric Duncan travelled to Texas from Liberia two weeks ago and was the first patient infected with the Ebola virus.
His death raises questions about the quality of healthcare he received.
The case has stirred attention and concern that someone with Ebola had been able to fly into the United States from Liberia, raising the spectre more passengers could arrive and spread the disease outside of West Africa, where nearly 4 000 people have died in three impoverished countries.
The White House said extra screening for fever will be carried out for arriving passengers from West Africa. The screening will start at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport from the weekend, and later be used at Newark Liberty, Washington Dulles, Chicago O’Hare and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta.
Duncan’s death prompted questions about the timeliness of his care. The patient initially sought treatment two days before being admitted, but was sent home with antibiotics.
He had been in critical condition and on a ventilator and kidney dialysis at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. He was given an experimental medication to try to keep him alive, starting on Saturday, six days after being admitted.
But Ebola experts also asked why Duncan received the experimental drug brincidofovir, made by Chimerix, which has not been tested on humans or animals, rather than Tekmira Pharmaceuticals drug TKM-Ebola, which has been tested on humans. TKM-Ebola was given to another US patient, Dr Rick Sancra, who contracted Ebola while working in Liberia and was cured.
Duncan was able to fly to the United States from Liberia because he did not have a fever when screened at the airport in the capital, Monrovia, and filled out a questionnaire saying he had not been in contact with anyone infected with Ebola. Liberian officials have said Duncan lied on the questionnaire and had been in contact with a pregnant woman who later died.
Duncan was not screened on arrival in the United States. Starting this weekend, though, JFK airport will use a non-invasive device to take the temperature of passengers, who also will fill out detailed questionnaires created by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).