UPDATE 11 p.m. EDT: Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins said Sunday prosecutors are considering charges against Thomas Eric Duncan, 42, for lying about contact with a woman who had died of Ebola. "It would be cruel and inhumane to go after a person on their death bed, but at the same time the Dallas County DA’s office would want to show that there are consequences to entering the country by falsifying documents and then knowingly putting the public at risk,” Denmon said in a statement. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported said Denmon did not elaborate on what the charges would be in an interview on KXAS-TV, Dallas-Fort Worth.
With one confirmed case of Ebola in the United States, Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Sunday he is confident the country won't experience a large-scale outbreak. The patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, is hospitalized in Dallas in critical condition, but Frieden on CNN's "State of the Union" assured all who may have been exposed to the virus through Duncan are being observed daily for a 21-day monitoring period.
“That’s how you stop it in its tracks,” Frieden said. “We’re confident we won’t see a large number of cases from this. We are concerned about a couple of family members who had very close contact with him when he was sick, but that’s something we’ll have to check each day, [for] 21 days after the last day of contact.”
About 50 people were in contact with Duncan, and Frieden said the threat would end 42 days after Duncan was placed into isolation Sept. 28. In the event new cases are confirmed, the threat countdown will reset.
Duncan is a resident of Liberia where Ebola has killed 2,069 people, according to the CDC. He recently traveled from Liberia to the U.S., first landing in Washington and then flew to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Prior to being quarantined, he visited Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Sept. 20, but was released without being correctly diagnosed. Duncan is now in isolation at the same hospital.
Though Frieden said a combination of infection control in hospitals and public health interventions will help stave off Ebola in the U.S., a survey conducted by National Nurses United and released Friday found 80 percent of the 700 registered nurses queried said their hospitals had not briefed them on protocol regarding the intake and care of Ebola patients. Additionally, a third said their hospitals do not have supplies or plans to equip isolation rooms for the intake of Ebola patients, and 40 percent said their facilities had no plans for equipping isolation rooms. The survey queried nurses at 250 hospitals nationwide. National Nurses United is now urging an immediate upgrade in emergency policies for U.S. hospitals.
Meanwhile, there are now 7,492 cases of Ebola documented worldwide, according to the CDC. Most are localized in West African countries where at least 3,400 people have died. Frieden said on NBC’s "Meet the Press" efforts to combat the virus through drug therapy will be slow due to low availability of the most vital drug. Various agencies are now looking into alternative drug treatments, including a number of trial vaccines.
"The most promising drug, ZMapp, there’s no more of it, and it’s hard to make, it takes months to make just a bit," he said.