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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) — The state of Texas and Dallas County health officials have ordered four close family members of a Dallas Ebola patient to stay home and not have visitors to prevent spreading the deadly disease.
If ignored, a violation could result in criminal charges.
Officials made the announcement on Thursday, saying the order is out of an “abundance of caution”.
“We have tried and true protocols to protect the public and stop the spread of this disease,” said Dr. David Lakey, Texas health commissioner. “This order gives us the ability to monitor the situation in the most meticulous way.”
The family was previously instructed to stay home, but the strict public health control order should ensure compliance, according to health officials.
The orders were hand delivered to the family members on Wednesday.
The orders state that visitors are not allowed at the residence “without approval from the local or state health department until at least Oct. 19.” That date marks the end of the incubation period, in which the family is at risk of having the disease.
The family members must also be available to provide blood samples, agree to any testing by public health officials, and immediately report any symptoms to Dallas County Health and Human Services. The symptoms specifically mentioned include a fever above 100.5 degrees, headache, nausea, diarrhea or abdominal pain.
State law says that health officials are well within their rights to hand down the order.
Texas law allows the state health department and the local health authority to issue control measures to a person who is ill with, has been exposed to, or is the carrier of a communicable disease. (Health and Safety Code §81.083). Control measures by law can include isolation, quarantine and preventive therapy. If a person does not follow these orders, they can be enforced by the courts, and the person can face criminal charges.
The family members have not displayed any symptoms of Ebola, meaning they are not currently at risk of spreading the disease.
Thomas Eric Duncan, who has been identified as the patient, had been staying at The Ivy apartments in northeast Dallas. Residents of the complex are concerned by the lack of information provided to them by health officials.
Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles also announced that five different Dallas ISD campuses were affected by students that had previously contacted the patient. These schools will be disinfected by an increased janitorial staff and will have healthcare professionals on hand to answer any questions.
Doctors at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas have acknowledged that there was a communication mix-up when Duncan initially sought medical care on Sept. 25. Despite telling health officials that he was traveling from Liberia, he was sent home. Officials say the information was not communicated and factored into the decision-making process.
Dallas County health director Zach Thompson said Thursday that as many as 80 people could have been exposed to the Ebola virus through indirect contact, while between 12 and 18 people could have been exposed to the virus directly.
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