Thomas Eric Duncan, who was the first Ebola patient diagnosed for the deadly virus on American soil, is now in critical condition, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas said on Saturday.
Duncan, from Liberia, had previously been listed as being in serious condition. He was admitted to the hospital Sept. 28. The Centers for Disease Control confirmed his diagnosis with Ebola on Sept. 30.
He originally went to the hospital on Sept. 25, but was sent home with antibiotics and pain pills. Three days later, he went back to the Dallas hospital in an ambulance.
Now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director, Thomas Frieden, said in a press conference that health officials initially interviewed 114 individuals who may have had contact with Duncan, then narrowed the list to 50, the majority of whom are of very low concern.
The first Ebola diagnosis in the U.S. has raised concerns about whether the disease could spread in the U.S. Federal health officials say they are confident they can control it. Nevertheless, Dr. Anthony Fauci, from the National Institutes of Health, said it is “extraordinarily unlikely” for an Ebola outbreak to occur in the US.
“We have already gotten well over 100 inquiries of possible patients,” Frieden told reporters. “We’ve assessed every one of those … and just this one patient has tested positive … We expect that we will see more rumors or concerns or possibilities of cases, until there is a positive laboratory test, that is what they are.”
The man arrived in Texas on September 20th after passing through two of the busiest airports in the USA – at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, and Dulles International Airport in Washington DC. The Liberian national had earlier passed through Brussels International in Belgium on a flight from the African state’s capital Monrovia.
Authorities have claimed he posed no danger to his fellow travelers or anyone who later boarded those planes because he was not displacing any symptoms of the Ebola virus at the time and was therefore not contagious.
United Airlines said in a statement after the flight arrived: “Upon arrival at Newark Airport from Brussels, medical professionals instructed that customers and crew of United Flight 998 remain on board until they could assist an ill customer.”
Liberian authorities have announced plans to prosecute Mr Duncan when he returns, accusing him of lying to airport officials about not having any contact with an infected person.
The 2014 Ebola outbreak is centered in three West African countries: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The World Health Organization on Friday updated its death toll from the virus to at least 3,439 out of 7,492 suspected, probable or confirmed cases.
In Europe, the charity Doctors Without Borders said it had received confirmation from the French health ministry that a nurse had survived the disease. She was evacuated from Liberia and cared for at a hospital near Paris. In Germany, the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf said a Senegalese scientist who was infected in Sierra Leone had been discharged, reports the Guardian.