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First U.S. Ebola Patient Dies in Dallas Hospital

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Liberian man who was diagnosed last month with Ebola, the first such case in the United States, died Wednesday morning at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

Hospital spokesman Wendell Watson emailed a statement to the press, saying, “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.”

Duncan had arrived at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, flying in from Liberia, on September 20. He went to the emergency room on September 25 but was soon released, for reasons that remain unclear. He was readmitted on September 28 and was diagnosed with Ebola on September 30.

The strange series of events leading up to Duncan’s diagnosis has caused many to wonder if the country is prepared for a possible outbreak of Ebola. Such an event is highly unlikely to occur here, but if Ebola does spread further in America, it will almost certainly not be as drastic as the current crisis in West Africa, which has already claimed the lives of 3,400 since March.

In the past week-plus, as word of an Ebola patient in America spread, as many as 48 people who had come in contact with Duncan began to be monitored, to see if they were beginning to show any similar symptoms. Places he had been and things he had touched were treated as potential biohazard sites. It can take up to three weeks for someone to start showing symptoms of the disease.

Duncan likely contracted the disease when he helped carry a pregnant woman to an Ebola clinic last month. He was not experiencing any symptoms when he got on his flight to Dallas from the Liberian capital, Monrovia, on September 19.

At this time, there are no additional cases of Ebola that have been reported in the Dallas area, or the in the United States as a whole. It appears that hospital staff at Texas Health Presbyterian managed to contain the event.

The commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, David Lakey, said in a statement that public health officials had faced “an enormous test” in handling Mr. Duncan’s case: “The doctors, nurses and staff at Presbyterian provided excellent and compassionate care, but Ebola is a disease that attacks the body in many ways. We’ll continue every effort to contain the spread of the virus and protect people from this threat.”

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