Monday marks the end of the 21-day Ebola incubation period for 48 people who may have had contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, who died of the deadly virus Oct. 8. Duncan, the first person to die from the disease in the United States, was buried Saturday in North Carolina.
The virus has a three- to 21-day incubation period, and Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said Sunday authorities were waiting for midnight to declare an end to the quarantine, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. Zachary Thompson, director for health and human services in Dallas County, said he's worried about how the 48 will fare once they return to society. The transition for Duncan's girlfriend, Thompson told the paper, will be even harder.
“Louise [Troh] is at that grieving process and she and her family have just experienced a great loss,” Thompson said. “We need to be mindful of that.”
Troh's pastor said she has spent the past three weeks listening to gospel music, cooking Liberian food and talking with relatives by phone, the New York Times reported. Jenkins told the Times it was unclear where Troh would live once the quarantine is over because it has been difficult to find a willing landlord.
Troh's daughter, Youngor Jallah, said she has been shunned the few times she has left her apartment.
“If I even go to the store and I see a fellow Liberian, they run away,” Jallah told the Times. “They don’t understand. They think we have the Ebola, that’s what they think -- that even by speaking to them, saying hi to them, that they’re going to get it. No one wants to die.”
Duncan arrived in the United States from Liberia in September and went to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, complaining of fever and stomach pains. Though he told hospital personnel he had been in Liberia, he was initially sent home with a prescription. He was hospitalized two days later.
Two nurses who cared for Duncan currently are suffering from the disease.
The hospital acknowledged it made mistakes in Duncan's case in full-page ads published Sunday in the Star-Telegram and the Dallas Morning News.
“When we initially treated Mr. Duncan, we examined him thoroughly and performed numerous tests, but the fact that Mr. Duncan had traveled to Africa was not communicated effectively among the care team, though it was in his medical chart,” CEO Barclay Berden said. “On that visit to the Emergency Department, we did not correctly diagnose his symptoms. For that, we are truly sorry.”
Though Duncan's friends and family are being released from quarantine, hundreds of other people are still waiting out the incubation period, including other Presbyterian health care workers and passengers aboard the Frontier Airlines plane on which infected nurse Amber Vinson flew home from Cleveland. In addition, medical workers, missionaries and journalists returning from West Africa, especially the infected countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, also are staying home, the Times noted.