Thomas Eric Duncan told hospital officials after he became ill in Dallas that he had traveled from Liberia, one of the African countries under siege from Ebola.
That’s supposed to be a warning flag in all hospitals, but a nurse sent him home with antibiotics after he was diagnosed with a viral infection.
Duncan in fact was ill with the Ebola virus. A hospital official in Texas, where the watch for Ebola and the training for how to deal with it are intense, said Duncan’s release came about because the information about his travel “was not fully communicated” to the hospital’s medical team. The state has had officials complete training from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Most states have not. Now the pressure for such training in every state will most certainly intensify, as it should.
Some children with whom Duncan had contact are now being monitored, and their schools have been cleaned. Nearly 100 people who might have had contact directly or indirectly with those children or Duncan have been contacted.
It’s a scary situation unnecessarily created by too little urgency on the part of U.S. medical personnel to be ready for what enough experts said was an inevitability. The arrival of anyone at a U.S. hospital sick with a fever who has been to a West African country in the previous 21 days should automatically send flares up the chain of command.
Certainly the Texas case will spur the first step needed to combat the disease: awareness in all states. And though officials believe there is not a likely chance of a widespread problem in the U.S., hospital officials everywhere now need to put their institutions and their systems and their medical personnel on alert.