Ebola crisis: US under fire for faltering response to first case of deadly disease

Officials in Texas conceded that Texas hospital turned the patient away

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America’s faltering response to its first domestic Ebola diagnosis has continued to draw criticism as officials in Texas conceded that in addition to a hospital turning the patient away when he first presented himself with symptoms last week, it then took days to sanitise the apartment he had been visiting.

The man, who travelled to the US from Liberia on 20 September to visit a friend in Dallas, was admitted to the hospital on Sunday, three days after his first attempt – when he was sent home with a prescription for antibiotics. It was only yesterday, meanwhile, that contractors were finally expected to enter the apartment just north of downtown Dallas to decontaminate.  The same team had arrived late Thursday but didn’t have the right permits to go inside.

Ever since it emerged that the man, a Liberian called Thomas Eric Duncan, had the disease, the race has been on to ensure that it does not trigger a wider outbreak. The woman who hosted him, Louise Troh, and three members of her family, were yesterday being held indoors under armed guard. Her forced quarantine was ordered by a judge after the family failed to comply with an earlier request to stay inside.

Meanwhile, NBC News said a freelance cameraman covering the story for NBC  in Liberia had contracted the disease and was being flown to the US for treatment. He is the fourth American to contract Ebola.


In Dallas, authorities say they are monitoring about 100 people who had contact with Mr Duncan, of which about 18 had encountered him directly, several of them children.

“The challenges are real,” Dr Tom Frieden, of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, said yesterday, referring to the predicament of Ms Troh and the decontamination difficulties. “I am confident we will get it sorted out today. This is, after all, the first time we’ve ever had a case of Ebola in the US.”

Ms Troh said in interviews that she went with Mr Duncan on his first visit to hospital and she repeatedly told nurses that he had recently arrived from Liberia, one of three West African countries where Ebola is widespread. The hospital said there was a flaw in its electronic admitting system which meant doctors could not see what nurses had been told.