Liberia to prosecute man who took Ebola to US

2014-10-03 09:47

Dallas – Liberia plans to prosecute the airline passenger who was diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, alleging that he lied on an airport questionnaire about not having any contact with an infected person.

Thomas Eric Duncan filled out a series of questions about his health and activities before leaving on his journey to Dallas. On a September 19 form obtained by the Associated Press, he answered no to all of them.

Among other questions, the form asked whether Duncan had cared for an Ebola patient or touched the body of anyone who had died in an area affected by Ebola.

“We expect people to do the honourable thing,” said Binyah Kesselly, chairperson of the board of directors of the Liberia Airport Authority in Monrovia. The agency obtained permission from the ministry of justice to pursue the matter.

Neighbours in the Liberian capital believe Duncan became infected when he helped bundle a sick pregnant neighbour into a taxi a few weeks ago and set off with her to find treatment.

In Texas, health officials have reached out to about 80 people who may have had direct contact with Duncan or someone close to him, a public health spokesperson said yesterday.

None of the people is showing symptoms, but health authorities have educated them about Ebola and told them to notify medical workers if they begin to feel ill.

The group will be monitored to see if anyone seeks medical care during the three weeks immediately following the time of contact, said Erikka Neroes, of the Dallas County Health and Human Services agency.

Ebola symptoms can include fever, muscle pain, vomiting and bleeding, and can appear as long as 21 days after exposure to the virus. The disease is not contagious until symptoms begin. It spreads only by close contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids.

Health officials are focusing on containment to try to stem the possibility of the Ebola virus spreading beyond Duncan, who arrived in Dallas on September 20 to visit relatives and fell ill a few days later.

His sister, Mai Wureh, identified Duncan as the infected man in an interview.

A Dallas emergency room sent him home last week, even though he told a nurse that he had been in disease-ravaged West Africa. The decision by Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital to release Duncan could have put others at risk of exposure to Ebola before the man went back to the ER a couple of days later when his condition worsened.

The patient explained to a nurse last Thursday that he was visiting the US from Africa, but that information was not widely shared, said Dr Mark Lester, who works for the hospital’s parent company.

Duncan has been kept in isolation at the hospital since Sunday. He was listed yesterday in serious but stable condition.

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