The discovery last Tuesday of the first Ebola patient to be diagnosed in the United States demonstrates the international dimension of the crisis and signifies that it is not a Liberian or West Africa problem, Information Minister Lewis Brown has said.
Reacting to reports of an infected person, Thomas Eric Duncan, who traveled to Texas from Liberia on September 19, and developed symptoms seven days later, Minister Brown expressed the Liberian government’s regret and noted that tests conducted on Duncan indicated that, like several others being permitted to travel, he showed no signs of fever or symptoms of the virus.
Minister Brown said stringent screening measures set up at the Roberts International Airport are preventing the disease from spreading by air travel. “These screening programs are monitored regularly,” he said.
A source close to Duncan told the Daily Observer yesterday that he “did not leave Liberia sick,” but that he may have come in contact with people exhibiting symptoms before he left. Duncan was an employee at FedEx Liberia until early September this year, when his employment was terminated. “By then, he had already received a visa to visit a relative in Texas (USA), so he decided to just go,” the source said.
“As we are also discovering,” Minister Brown said yesterday, “it was only days after his arrival in the United States that the disease was manifested. As such, consistent with the findings of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we are led to believe that he posed no risks to other passengers or the crew with whom he travelled.”
The incident report from the CDC said the patient in question had been sick for four days before being taken into quarantine. “The fact that the patient had not developed symptoms, which for Ebola could take up to 21 days after infection to appear, meant that it was possible for him to travel without detection,” the CDC report said.
Meanwhile, the Liberian Embassy in Washington DC told the Daily Observer that they were making frantic efforts to “ascertain the circumstances regarding Duncan’s wellbeing” after it was reported that he is a Liberian.
Health officials in Dallas, Texas say Duncan is believed to have come in contact with at least 12 to 18 people, including five children, as Ebola symptoms began to manifest. Some of those who he has come in contact with since his arrival in the US are still unknown. All of those who have so far been identified are being closely monitored, although none of have yet tested positive with Ebola.
Minister Brown indicated in his reaction to the Duncan case that the Ebola crisis has been spoken of persuasively resulting in the mobilization of resources by the international community to avert the spread of the virus. He said, “The international community has a stake in defeating Ebola and together, we will win the fight against the deadly Ebola Virus Disease."
Meanwhile, CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said U.S. hospitals are well prepared to handle Ebola patients, assuring the US public that the virus should not pose the same threat in the United States as it has in Africa.
The Texas Department of State Health Services said it was working with the CDC, the local health department and the hospital “to investigate the case and help prevent transmission of the disease.”
Reports further indicate that US hospitals have treated several patients who were diagnosed with Ebola in West Africa, the most famous cases of which were that of two US aid workers Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, who were treated with the experimental ZMapp drug.
Meanwhile, according to Reuters, the news of the diagnosis in the US lifted the shares of small biotechnology companies working on Ebola therapies or vaccines in after-hours trading.