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Monday, June 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

The Politics of Ebola

DALLAS (CN) - Though praised for leadership during Dallas' Ebola scare, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins is facing criticism for exposing himself and perhaps others to the deadly disease in a "political stunt."

Jenkins made headlines when he drove the family of Ebola patient Thomas Earl Duncan last week to an undisclosed home while their apartment was decontaminated and their belongings incinerated.

Jenkins did not wear a protective suit during the drive, raising concerns by parents at an elementary school where Jenkins' daughter is a student.

Highland Park Independent School District officials were forced to address the concerns, stating that Jenkins asked them to "pass along the assurances of public health officials that he and his family are not at risk for exposure to Ebola as a result of his work on the case."

"Jenkins worked directly with the family members with whom the Ebola patient stayed to ensure that they were safely relocated to another residence where they will continue to be monitored," the school district said in a statement. "According to reports, none of the family members have developed symptoms."

Jenkins is seeking re-election in November. His opponent, Republican Ron Natinsky, said Jenkins "seems to have little respect for how swift and deadly" the disease is.

"As a campaign stunt, Jenkins entered the apartment of the Ebola victim without protective gear and later bragged at a press conference that we was wearing the same shirt he wore while in the apartment that had been exposed to Ebola virus," Natinsky posted on Facebook.

"Jenkins pulled this stunt while an American photojournalist was being treated in Wisconsin for the Ebola virus that he believes he got while cleaning an infected car." Natinsky said that the "reckless political stunt" is another example of Jenkins' "failed leadership."

Natinsky said that hours after Jenkins entered the quarantined apartment without any protection, hazardous materials crews were seen wearing full protective gear as they decontaminated the apartment.

Duncan, 42, of Liberia, apparently caught the disease after helping an ill, pregnant woman to the hospital in Liberia days before his Sept. 20 trip to Dallas to get married.

Duncan became ill and was sent home from the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas on Sept. 26, with only antibiotics.

He was admitted to the hospital two days later after developing symptoms of Ebola and was placed in quarantine.

Duncan died Tuesday morning after spending 10 days in quarantine.

The hospital has been under fire for releasing Duncan after his first visit.

Nerves were further frayed when within hours of Duncan's death, a Dallas County sheriff's sergeant checked into a Frisco urgent care clinic. Sgt. Michael Monnig was among several Dallas County officials who entered the apartment on Oct. 1 to serve a quarantine order on Duncan's immediate family.

Monnig tested negative for the disease and was released from Presbyterian Hospital Thursday.

Ten people were exposed to Duncan, and an additional 38 may have been, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Daily follow-up examinations of all 48 contacts will continue for 21 days after their exposure - the maximum incubation period for the disease.

A county judge in Texas is the head of the county commission. It is not a judicial office.

Follow @davejourno
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