The man who brought Ebola to the United States from West Africa died this morning in a Dallas hospital after fighting the deadly disease ten days after he was finally hospitalized.
Thomas Eric Duncan, whose health took a grave turn for the worse this weekend, succumbed to the virus at 7.51am at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, officials announced late this morning.
Duncan exposed nearly 50 people to the disease in America, including his fiancée Louise Troh and two of her children. They remain quarantined and under constant monitoring by health officials over fears that they, too, could develop symptoms during a 21-day incubation period.
On Monday doctors began administering an experimental antiviral drug to Duncan in the hopes that it could save his life, but he showed few signs of improvement.
His family said Tuesday that he was medically sedated and unresponsive when they tried to visit him at the hospital.
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital issued a statement that read: ‘It is with profound sadness and heartfelt disappointment that we must inform you of the death of Thomas Eric Duncan this morning at 7.51am. Mr. Duncan succumbed to an insidious disease, Ebola.
‘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.’
Texas health officials must now dispose of Duncan’s body, which still harbors the disease. Ebola spreads by having contact with the bodily fluids of an infected patient. Even getting sweat or blood on the skin can cause an infection.
Guidance that the Centers for Disease Control issued to hospitals on the disposal of dead Ebola patients calls for Duncan’s body to be immediately wrapped in a plastic shroud and zipped up in two leak-proof body bags – with his medical lines and tubes still attached.
His remains will then be shipped to the Dallas County morgue, where his body will either be cremated or buried in a hermetically-sealed casket.
Officials recommend no autopsy or embalming, for fear that unnecessary contact with the remains could spread the infection.
Thomas Eric Duncan apologized to his fiancée after doctors told him he had the deadly disease and told her he would have rather died in Liberia than put her at risk, a family friend has said.
‘He apologized to Louise the day they told him what he had. He told her, “I’m so sorry all of this is happening. I would not put the love of my life in danger,'” Saymendy Lloyd told the Washington Post.
Duncan’s family are now saying that he had no idea he had been exposed to Ebola when he boarded a plane in Liberia, bound for the United States.
It has been previously reported that Duncan helped care for a pregnant woman who later died of the disease in Monrovia, Liberia. However, he ha told those close to him that he thought she was suffering complications from the pregnancy and had no idea she was infected with Ebola.
Duncan told Louise Troh, whom he came to the United States to marry, that he ‘would have preferred to stay in Liberia and died than bring this disease to you,’ Mr Lloyd told the Post.
Liberia authorities have accused Duncan of lying on an airport screening form before flying out of Monrovia last month and claiming he had no contact with Ebola victims. The Dallas County prosecutor also announced this week Duncan could face criminal charges if he knew he had Ebola and exposed people to the disease anyway.
Ten people, including seven healthcare workers and three family members, are considered at high risk for Ebola after they were exposed to Duncan after he became contagious. Another 38 more are being monitors by the CDC for possible risk of the disease.
Duncan’s fiance Louise Troh, who is perhaps highest at risk of catching the disease after she cared for him at her Dallas apartment while he sweated and vomited through the early staged of the disease, says she does not blame him for possibly exposing her.
She told WFAA-TV that she just wanted him to get better so that he can return to her. The couple, who met in a refugee camp in the Ivory Coast, have a 19-year-old son Kasiah together who is currently in college.
‘I’m just praying to God that he gets better. He’s a generous guy, and I’m just so sad. He just come to America and just get so sick, and just went down just in a second,’ she told the TV station.
‘I feel so sad. I’m confused, and really disturbed. I don’t know. I’m just praying to God so he can wake up and for him to be able to see his children and be able to come back to his family.’
Kasiah Duncan, a student at Angelo State University, arrived in Dallas to visit his father for the first time.
‘I hope and keep praying that my family is OK — and that my dad makes it out safely,’ Kasiah said.
The college student spoke briefly and softly to reporters at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, which has a large Liberian community.
‘Thank you church for all the good things you’ve been doing for my mom, the support given to my family,’ Kasiah said. ‘Thanks to the hospital for their work in trying to help my dad stay alive.’
Kasiah’s mother, Ms Troh, remains in quarantine after she had contact with Thomas Eric Duncan. Troh left Liberia more than a decade ago after a falling out with Duncan — but the two renewed their relationship earlier this year.
Duncan’s family visited him at the hospital Tuesday but declined to view him via video because the last time it had been too upsetting.
The relatives glimpsed him using a video system at Dallas’ Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on Monday.
But when they returned anew, this time with Rev. Jessie Jackson, they decided such images were too much.
‘What we saw was very painful. It didn’t look good,’ said Duncan’s nephew, Josephus Weeks.
Weeks said he and Duncan’s mother were unable to sleep after seeing Duncan’s face.
Duncan’s liver function, which declined over the weekend, has improved, though doctors say it may it may not stay that way.
David Lakey, commissioner of Texas’ Department of State Health Services, walked the hospital ward housing Duncan, which is otherwise vacant.
He said security and medical officials wear gowns, double gloves and masks, and are following protocols on removing them and showering when they leave the ward.
‘They are doing their work very safely,’ Lakey said.
Authorities in the United States and the public are on alert following Duncan’s diagnosis more than a week ago, which raised concerns that the worst epidemic of Ebola on record could spread from three hardest-hit impoverished countries — Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
The first case of Ebola being contracted outside of West Africa was reported in Spain and the World Health Organization expects more cases in Europe.
Freelance NBC cameraman Ashoka Mukpo is being treated at the Nebraska Medical Center, which cared for one other U.S. national flown out of West Africa after contracting Ebola and was later discharged.
The drug used in Dallas and Nebraska, brincidofovir, was developed by Durham, North Carolina-based Chimerix Inc. The company said it has been tested in more than 1,000 patients without raising safety concerns.
‘We decided this was currently our best option for treatment,’ said Phil Smith, medical director of the Nebraska Medical Center’s Biocontainment Unit, which consulted with U.S. health and drug officials before making its decision.
Mukpo is experiencing symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, the center said.
U.S. health officials said on Tuesday they would unveil within days new screening procedures at the country’s airports to address public concern over the possibility of an outbreak.
Texas state health officials said they are monitoring 10 people who had close contact with Duncan and 38 others who came into contact with that group to see if anyone had developed signs of infection.
So far, no one has shown any symptoms, health officials said.
Officials have said this is a critical week to see if any of those exposed in Dallas develop signs of the virus that has killed more than 3,400 people since an outbreak in West Africa began in March, out of nearly 7,500 confirmed, probable and suspected cases.
Dallas residents have mostly taken in news of Ebola within the city limits calmly, but many have kept a close eye on whether it might spread. Cars of Dallas County Sheriff’s deputies who were at the scene of the apartment where Duncan stayed have been scrubbed as a precaution, the sheriff’s office said.
Prominent civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson met members of Duncan’s family and held a prayer vigil on Tuesday in front of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.
Jackson said the hospital initially discharged Duncan because he was poor and did not have medical insurance. About two days after Duncan left the hospital, he was taken back by ambulance and put into isolation.
The hospital and health officials have said mistakes were made in handling Duncan.