Thomas Eric Duncan, the first patient to be diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., died this morning, a spokesman for the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas said in a statement.
"He fought courageously in this battle," the statement, from public relations director Wendell Watson, said. "Our professionals, the doctors and nurses in the unit, as well as the entire Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas community, are also grieving his passing. We have offered the family our support and condolences at this difficult time."
Duncan, who is Liberian, likely contracted Ebola when he helped carry a sick neighbor to the hospital in Monrovia. He flew from Liberia to Dallas on September 20, when he was not yet showing symptoms of the virus. After developing a fever and abdominal pain on the 24th, Duncan sought care at Texas Health Presbyterian on the 25th, but he was sent home.
He later returned to the hospital after his symptoms worsened, and he was put in isolation there on September 28. He had been receiving an experimental treatment, brincidofovir, a drug that had previously only been used to fight other viruses. There are no more remaining doses of ZMapp, the experimental drug used to treat Kent Brantly, the American doctor who was previously diagnosed with Ebola and treated in Georgia.
The fact that Duncan was turned away when he first attempted to seek treatment will likely become a point of further controversy. Between the two hospital admissions, Duncan writhed on a bed in a Dallas apartment, and he came into contact with up to 50 people, including five school-aged children. Health workers are currently monitoring the exposed individuals for signs of the disease.
At first, the hospital blamed its lapse on a "flaw" with its electronic health record system, saying that although Duncan told nurses he recently traveled to Liberia, that information did not automatically jump into the doctors' side of the records. However, the hospital later backtracked on that claim, saying there was "no flaw" with the records.
Earlier this week, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, who is black, suggested that the hospital's snafu was a sign of endemic racism in the way emergency-room patients are handled.
“We know why what happened at Presbyterian happened,” he told reporters. “If a person who looks like me shows up without insurance, they don’t get the same treatment.”
Duncan, 42, was a native of Liberia and had escaped the country's brutal 1990s civil war. He met a woman, Louise Troh, in a refugee camp in the Ivory Coast, and they had a son together, Karsiah. Troh and the boy managed to obtain a U.S. immigration visa in the late 90s, but Duncan did not and had to remain in West Africa.
Duncan finally scored a visitor's visa to the U.S. this summer, and he and Troh planned to reunite and marry in the U.S., the Dallas Morning News reported. His son, a college student in Texas, was looking forward to seeing his dad.
Soon after he arrived, though, Duncan began to experience the fever, sweating, and vomiting that come with Ebola. The day he was diagnosed with the virus, he reportedly apologized to Troh for bringing it into her home.
"He told her, ‘I’m so sorry all of this is happening,'" Saymendy Lloyd, a close friend of Troh, told the Washington Post. “I would not put the love of my life in danger.”
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