- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Texas hospital treating the first case of Ebola diagnosed within the U.S. fumbled the early going, failing to act on information about his arrival from West Africa and then releasing him into the general population for two days, raising the possibility he may have come in contact with several school-aged children while infectious, officials revealed Wednesday.

The patient identified as Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian national, told a nurse he had flown to the U.S. from the affected region, but “regrettably,” that information was not passed along to the entire treatment team before he was discharged, said Mark Lester, a clinical leader for Texas Health Resources. Mr. Duncan returned to the hospital two days later,

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said several children who interacted with Mr. Duncan before he was admitted to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas were being monitored at home for symptoms, which could appear over the next 21 days.

He provided no details about the interaction, but said the children’s parents are “extremely concerned” about the development.

“Let me assure [that] these children have been identified and are being monitored, and the disease cannot be transmitted before having any symptoms,” Mr. Perry said in a press conference.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Thomas Frieden said officials will retrace Mr. Duncan’s steps to see who may have had direct physical contact with him once he became infectious, which is thought be a week ago.

SEE ALSO: After first Ebola case, red flags emerge that U.S. unprepared for pandemic

“That’s how you stop an Ebola outbreak, that’s what we will do in this case,” the director told CNN. “There is no doubt in my mind that we can stop it in its tracks here.”

In one sign of the concern already sparked by the news, some nervous Dallas parents picked up their children early from school Wednesday after learning that five students attended class after possibly being exposed to Mr. Duncan, even as school administrators urged local families to remain calm.

None of the children have shown symptoms and are now being monitored at home, where they are likely to remain for three weeks, Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Mike Miles said. But Marcie Pardo and other parents left L.L. Hotchkiss Elementary indicating that they might take no chances and keep their children home the rest of the week.

Officials have said little about the infected patient’s background and condition, citing privacy laws, other than that he is in serious condition and came to Texas to visit family.

But several news outlets, citing health officials, identified him Wednesday as Mr. Duncan. He decided to come to the U.S. after quitting his job in Liberia.

The New York Times reported that while in Liberia he physically assisted his landlord’s daughter, who had fallen ill. She died the next day, and the landlord’s son and others who assisted the woman also have since died.

Mr. Duncan arrived in the U.S. on Sept. 20, although officials have said the patient was not infectious during his flights because he did not exhibit symptoms then.

The four days between the patient’s arrival and his feeling ill, and the two-day span between his first visit to the hospital and his admittance, have raised questions about how many people may have been exposed to Ebola in the Dallas area.

But officials said they believe they can quickly contain the virus, citing American infrastructure and the way the virus is spread.

Ebola is transmitted by direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person or contaminated objects, such as needles.

Dr. Frieden said officials have been able to beat back the virus under much worse conditions abroad, citing recent progress in the Nigerian city of Lagos.

The U.S. case has put a brighter spotlight on travel from West African countries like Sierra Leone and Liberia. According to Dr. Frieden, every health worker in America has to start thinking about their patients’ travel histories.

“If someone’s been in West Africa within 21 days and they’ve got a fever, immediately isolate them and get them tested for Ebola,” he told CNN.

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