DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The first person diagnosed with the Ebola virus on American soil, Thomas Eric Duncan, had contact with several school-aged children before he was admitted to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on Sunday.
At a Wednesday noon news conference and surrounded by Dallas city leaders and health officials, Texas Governor Rick Perry confirmed that the Duncan did have contact with five children, who all attend Dallas public schools.
“Today, we learned that some school-aged children have been identified as having had contact with the patient and are now being monitored at home for any signs of the disease,” said Perry.
“Let me assure you that these children have been identified and are being monitored and the disease cannot be transmitted before having any symptoms. I have full confidence in the medical professionals and Superintendent [Mike] Miles, and our local, our state and federal partners in keeping this contained.”
Miles confirmed five children had contact with the infected patient over the weekend and attended school this week. They attended Tasby Middle School, Conrad High School, Hotchkiss Elementary School, and Rogers Elementary School. The students are not under quarantine, but are being told to stay at home. Dallas County Health and Human Services director Zachary Thompson said his office will keep tabs on the children to assure they do not leave their homes.
Accurate information is an antidote to panic, but school officials said diversity has presented a problem.
“Thirty-two different languages are spoken at Conrad High school for example. So we’re putting extra people on the ground so they can interpret and help people understand,” said Miles.
“The students didn’t have any symptoms, so the odds of them passing on any sort of virus is low. We’re also going to be staffing those schools with additional health professionals,” said Miles. “Additional health professionals will be on hand to answer questions, check any flu like symptoms, or check any other symptoms kids might have in the next few weeks.”
Miles also added that custodial staff will clean and disinfect school buildings, similar to the district’s response to West Nile Virus.
“We’re going to keep going, business as usual. School will be in session today, tomorrow, and into the future,” said Miles.
DISD released the following statement:
“The health and safety of Dallas ISD students and staff is always our top priority. When issues of concern are brought to our attention, we feel it is important to share them with staff, parents and the community so that appropriate steps can be taken.
This morning, Dallas ISD was made aware that five students who attend four district schools may have had contact with the individual who was recently diagnosed with the Ebola virus. Those schools are Emmett J. Conrad High School, Sam Tasby Middle School, L.L. Hotchkiss Elementary School and Dan D. Rogers Elementary. The impacted students are currently not showing any symptoms and are under close observation by the Dallas County Health and Human Services Department. As a precautionary measure, the students have been advised to stay home from school. Since the students are not presenting any symptoms, there is nothing to suggest that the disease was spread to others including students and staff.
It is also important to know that individuals are not contagious until symptoms appear. Because of this, there is no imminent danger to children in the school district.
Dallas ISD is in regular communication with the Centers for Disease Control, the City of Dallas, and Dallas County Health and Human Services. Updates will be provided as they are received.
A recorded hotline is being established to provide any updates on this situation. The number for this hotline is (972) 925-5810. In addition, the district has created a web page where information will be updated as it becomes available. http://www.dallasisd.org/healthupdates”
According to a hospital executive, the patient is now in serious but stable condition.
“This case is serious. Rest assured that our system is working as it should. Professionals on every level of the chain of command know what to do to minimize this potential risk to the people of Texas and this country,” said Perry.
Since the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, Texas has been working on a test to diagnose the virus. Dr. David Lakey, Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, said those tests began in August.
“This is not West Africa. This is a very sophisticated city — a very sophisticated hospital. The dynamics are so significantly different than they are in West Africa that the chances of it being spread are very, very small,” said Lakey.
Perry closed his remarks saying, “There are few places in the world better equipped to meet the challenge that is posed in this case. Texas is one of only 13 states certified by the CDC to conduct diagnostic Ebola testing. We have the healthcare professional and the institutions that are second to none. The public should have every confidence that the highly trained professionals involved here will succeed in this very important mission.”
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