DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Thomas Duncan first walked into Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas last Thursday showing some of the symptoms of Ebola. But the man was sent back home. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are now investigating why he was sent away and if anyone would have been exposed to him had he been admitted to the hospital sooner.
The CDC reported Thursday morning that it expects to have a list of about 100 people who may have come into contact with Duncan. This is called the ‘contract tracing list.’ The names will be kept confidential as each person’s exposure to the patient has not been confirmed. These are all people who may have had face-to-face contact with the patient after he began to show the symptoms of Ebola.
The names on the list come from interviews conducted with Duncan, his immediate family, and others who were known to be in close contact with the patient.
“We are running down every possible lead, anybody who’s had contact or exposure, to make sure that we capture everybody,” said David Daigle of the CDC. “If the people do develop symptoms, and I hope that isn’t the case, then they might be sent to an isolation ward or to a treatment facility.”
The CDC and Dallas County officials are contacting these individuals and trying to determine if they should be visited on a daily basis. The count is up significantly from the 12 to 18 people who were initially believed to have been exposed to the virus. However, after the CDC’s list is finalized, the total should only decrease as people are checked out and crossed off of the list for, hopefully, showing no symptoms within the next 21 days.
The hospital admits that an error was made last week, when Duncan first arrived at 10:00 p.m. on Thursday night. According to a hospital official, there was a checklist system in place for at least a few weeks in order to monitor for these types of situations. And, somehow, even though Duncan told an emergency room nurse that he had been to West Africa recently, the man was not admitted.
“Regretfully, that information was not fully communicated throughout the full team,” said hospital executive vice president Dr. Mark Lester. “As a result, the full import of that information wasn’t factored into the clinical decision making.”
After being sent home, Duncan returned to the hospital on Sunday when paramedics rushed him back there with more severe symptoms. Duncan was then admitted and tested for the Ebola virus.
The nurses and staff members who came into contact with Duncan when he first arrived at the hospital are being observed. “They’ve identified the individuals that had contact with the patient, identifying what that contact was,” said commissioner David Lakey, M.D. with the Texas Department of State Health Services. “Just because they were in the emergency room doesn’t mean they had contact with the individual.”
The apartment complex where Duncan stayed with family members is really close — within walking distance — to the hospital in northeast Dallas. Now, the residents at The Ivy Apartments are extremely concerned that the virus was within their community. Hundreds of people, many of whom are immigrants and refugees from other countries, live at the complex. That includes a lot of children.
Residents were shocked to learn that Duncan was at their apartment complex. They did not find out until Wednesday. “No one told us. No one told me anything,” said Toni Gomez. “If I hadn’t been taking the trash out and seeing you guys come over here, then I wouldn’t have known.”
“It concerns us,” added Sandra Sestic, “so the kids don’t get sick. We just don’t know what’s going on around here.”
Meanwhile, officials at JPS Hospital in Fort Worth have added new protocols, including asking patients about their recent travel history and about possible contact with anyone else who has traveled to West Africa. The hospital also plans to immediately isolate patients who are experiencing any Ebola symptoms.
The City of Plano is upping their protocols as well, adding a hotline to answer Ebola questions (972-769-4820). Plano emergency workers received Ebola training back in August.
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