Thomas Eric Duncan, the first patient to be diagnosed with Ebola outside Africa, died on Wednesday, the Texas hospital that was treating him announced.
“It is with profound sadness and heartfelt disappointment that we must inform you of the death of Thomas Eric Duncan this morning,” the Texas Health Presbyterian hospital said in a statement.
Duncan, 42, died at 7.51am, according to the hospital. “Mr Duncan succumbed to an insidious disease, Ebola. He fought courageously in this battle. Our professionals, the doctors and nurses in the unit, as well as the entire Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas community, are also grieving his passing. We have offered the family our support and condolences at this difficult time,” the statement said.
Late last month, Duncan became the first patient to be diagnosed in the US with the virus, the current outbreak of which has killed more than 3,400 people in west Africa, including in his native Liberia.
David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas department of state health services, expressed condolences for Duncan’s family. “The past week has been an enormous test of our health system, but for one family it has been far more personal. Today they lost a dear member of their family. They have our sincere condolences, and we are keeping them in our thoughts.
“The doctors, nurses and staff at Presbyterian provided excellent and compassionate care, but Ebola is a disease that attacks the body in many ways. We’ll continue every effort to contain the spread of the virus and protect people from this threat.”
Texas officials said Duncan’s body will be cremated in accordance with guidlines developed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC) for handling infected bodies.
The body will be enclosed in two bags for transportation. Once the body is placed inside the bags, protective gear is not necessary for anyone who is not handling the body.
Lakey said he visited the family and explained to them personally that the state recommended cremating the body for public health reasons and the family agreed.
“This is a difficult time for the family, and our thoughts are with them,” Lakey said in an afternoon statement. “We will continue to treat Mr Duncan with dignity and respect, and we’re taking great care to make sure there is no additional risk that others could be infected.”
The Dallas Independent School District said in a statement that it is “saddened to learn of Mr Thomas Duncan’s passing” and that schools would make counselling services available to the students and staff affected by his death. Five school-age children were pulled from classes and are under observation.
Duncan travelled from Liberia to the US on 19 September to reunite with his girlfriend, Louise Troh, the mother of his son, Karsiah. After falling ill, Duncan was first turned away from hospital, before being admitted two days later when he became more seriously sick.
He was brought by ambulance to Texas Health Presbyterian on 28 September, where he was admitted and placed in isolation. Troh and three members of her family were placed under quarantine, where they must remain until 19 October. They were moved from their Dallas apartment on Friday to an undisclosed location in the city.
Duncan’s Ebola diagnosis was confirmed last Tuesday and his condition worsened over the weekend. His liver function declined, he was placed on dialysis and was breathing through a respirator. The hospital had begun treating Duncan with the experimental antiviral drug brincidofovir.
The way the hospital initially handled Duncan on his first visit has raised questions over hospitals’ preparedness for treating the disease, prompting the CDC to update its guidelines for healthcare facilities around the country.
His girlfriend and her family are under quarantine at an undisclosed location, after being moved from their apartment on Friday.
Officials are monitoring 10 people believed to have had direct contact with Duncan, including four who were sharing an apartment with him when he became ill. Another 38 people who may have come into contact with Duncan, but who are considered to be at much lower risk, are also being monitored. So far none has displayed symptoms of the virus.
It’s believed that Duncan contracted the disease while helping his landlord take their 19-year-old daughter to an Ebola treatment ward in Monrovia. Convulsing and seven months pregnant, the young woman was turned away from the overcrowded hospital apparently because it lacked the space to treat her. Duncan helped the girl’s family take her home again, where she died hours later.
The young woman’s brother began showing symptoms of the virus around the same time as Duncan. The brother, however, died days later on the way to hospital in Monrovia.
Duncan did not declare that he had been in contact with Ebola when he completed a pre-flight questionnaire at Monrovia airport before travelling to the US. The White House on Wednesday tightened up procedures for monitoring people arriving in the US from west Africa, where the disease is prevalent.
On Tuesday, the civil rights leader Rev Jesse Jackson travelled to Dallas to pray with Duncan’s family, who came from North Carolina. The family was able to glimpse their ill relative through the hospital’s camera system.
“I just came by here because I feel like God was calling me to come see my dad,” said Karsiah Duncan, 19, speaking at at a news conference Tuesday night hosted by a Dallas church. Karsiah hadn’t seen his father since he was three years old.
Duncan’s half sister, Mai Wureh, said he planned to marry Louise, Karsiah’s mother, and apply for permanent status to remain in the US with his family.
Stanley Gaye, president of the Liberian Community Association of Dallas-Fort Worth, told the Guardian that Duncan’s death had come as a shock as he was hopeful that the patient would pull through. “My spirit has been broken. I’m disappointed, I was hoping for the best, I didn’t think it was coming to this,” Gaye said.
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