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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

48 Dallas Ebola Contacts|Released From Isolation

DALLAS (CN) - The 48 people exposed to the late Thomas Eric Duncan before he was hospitalized were released from isolation this weekend, bolstering hopes the Ebola crisis in Dallas is under control.

Duncan, of Liberia, flew to Dallas on Sept. 20 to marry his fiancee, Louise Troh, of Dallas. He became ill and on his first visit to the emergency room at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas on Sept. 26, was sent home with only antibiotics. He was admitted two days later, with symptoms of Ebola.

Duncan died on Oct. 8 while under quarantine at Presbyterian.

Two of the nurses who treated him have since tested positive for Ebola.

Ebola has a maximum incubation period of 21 days, resulting in a three-week isolation and monitoring period for those that were in contact with Duncan. Seventeen of the initial 48 contacts were released from active surveillance by midnight (12:01 a.m.) Sunday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta

The remaining 31 contacts were released 24 hours later, including Troh, her son and two nephews.

Hours before Troh's release, she said, "Our happiness is mixed with sadness" because of the circumstances of Duncan's death.

Presbyterian has come under intense criticism for turning away Duncan on his first visit, though he informed staff he had recently been in Liberia, and because two of its nurses contracted Ebola.

"We continue to mourn his loss and grieve the circumstances that led to his death, just at the time we thought we were facing a happy future together," Loh said in a statement. "Our hearts also go out to the two brave women who have been infected by this terrible disease as they were trying to help him. We are also aware of how much this has affected many other people of my city, Dallas, and my country, the United States of America, even as it has in the country of my birth, Liberia. We also know that many people who work in Presbyterian Hospital are hurting because of this tragedy."

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins assured the public that the contacts are now safe and that the determination of a 21-day waiting period is sound.

"For the 38 years that we've been looking at and tracking Ebola - the World Health Organization and CDC are there for any outbreak - they've never had any case where anyone has showed symptoms for Ebola after 21 days," Jenkins said at Presbyterian on Sunday.

Jenkins said, "It's a critical weekend" because eight to 10 days after exposure is the most likely period to develop Ebola, with the odds "tapering off dramatically after 12 to 13 days."

"If we can get to Monday, we will be in a much better probability place," he said.

Jenkins said the stress from waiting for the incubation period to pass can cause other symptoms in contacts.

"They frequently will have headaches and upset stomachs and other symptoms, and I would too if I was on that list," Jenkins said. "When that happens, we test those people, and we don't have tests that indicate a positive test" for Ebola.

The next key group of contacts public health officials are watching are the 75 Presbyterian medical workers who cared for Duncan.

Those contacts who do not develop symptoms for Ebola will be released from monitoring on Oct. 29 - 21 days after Duncan's passing.

Follow @davejourno
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