Ordeal at the Dallas Ebola apartment moves on as TEN patients are classified ‘high risk’
Story by: By Louise Boyle for MailOnline and Dan Bates For Mailonline In Dallas, Texas and Wills Robinson for MailOnline
Quarantined family moved to a secret location after Hazmat team arrived FIVE DAYS after victim was diagnosed
- Group are said to have moved to a luxury stand-alone house
- An unidentified doctor is said to have donated the property
- Hazmat teams decontaminated apartment where Thomas Duncan stayed
- They collected bed sheets and blankets used by the infected man
- Crews discovered that Duncan had slept on every mattress in the apartment
- Health officials say 10 people are considered to be ‘high risk’ because of their contact with the infected patient
The family of an Ebola patient who were quarantined in an apartment over fears they could have contracted the deadly infection have been relocated to a secret location after their home was finally decontaminated. The group, who were in the property where Thomas Duncan was staying before he was hospitalized, are now believed to be moving on to a property donated by a friend of Dallas’ mayor, reports suggest. Health officials have said 10 people in the area are now considered to be ‘high risk after coming into contact with the infected patient while another 40 are being monitored closely in case symptoms arise.
A woman, a man and a boy were seen being led away officials behind black sheets set up by hazmat teams to seal the house earlier today. Cleanup crews were able to decontaminate the apartment by collecting bed sheets, towels and a mattress used by the infected man before he was hospitalized, as well as a suitcase he is believed to have brought back from Liberia. Louise Troh, her son Timothy Wayne, 13, nephew Oliver Smallwood, 21, and his friend Jeffrey Cole, have been legally ordered to stay inside the Dallas apartment where Ebola patient Thomas Duncan became contagious last weekend.
Sana Syed, a spokesman for the city of Dallas, said it had been hard to find a place for them to stay as no one had wanted to put them up. According to ABC News, the hazmat team also found that Duncan had slept on every single mattress in the house, not just the one that had been previously assumed.
The Dallas Fire Department’s hazmat crew and a private cleaning company were both at the apartment complex on Friday afternoon – close to 24 hours after Texas authorities promised to deal with the shocking oversight. The clean-up was expected to take around three hours.
Workers, wearing yellow protective suits, gloves and breathing apparatus, covered a car in black plastic, rolled out a walkway and taped a thick, plastic sheet over the front door and windows. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, who is coordinating the Ebola response, said today he was ‘not happy’ that family members were still quarantined at the home. Jenkins said Mr Duncan’s sweat-soaked bedsheets remained inside but were bagged and in the bedroom with the door closed. There are currently no plans to move the family to another location, he added, but said it was safe for them to remain the apartment while the sanitization process took place. The private company enlisted for the job, Cleaning Guys, will start the clean-up and place hazardous materials in secure containers.
Dallas County Fire Marshall Robert De Los Santos told MailOnline today that the family were ordered to stand to one side of the apartment while the crew were inside conducting the cleanup. He added that the crew cut up the mattress that Duncan slept on and put the pieces into large drums before removing it.
The other items being taken away would be bedding and Duncan’s suitcase that he brought over from Liberia. Earlier on Friday, Marshall De Los Santos said: ‘The family is in good spirits and they are being closely monitored. Our ultimate aim is to move those people out of this apartment but we don’t know when.’ De Los Santos added that the black garbage bags had been put up in front of the apartment door to stop any particles escaping from inside. Dallas County and the fire crew’s hazmat team will then move the materials ‘to a secure location’. A permanent location for the hazardous materials has not yet been decided with federal agencies. Judge Jenkins, who visited the family on Thursday, said they were ‘understandably stressed’ but being assisted by the CDC – not just to monitor their temperatures but to cope with the frightening situation.
The CDC said on Friday that out of the original 100 people they had questioned who may have come into contact with Mr Duncan, ten people were at high risk of developing Ebola symptoms with 40 people at low risk. The ten at high risk include the four people at the Ivy Apartment complex along with Louise Troh’s daughter Youngor Jallah, her husband and four children, who are also under quarantine at her apartment, a short distance away. The CDC’s Dr Beth Bell added: ‘I think it’s important to remember and recognize that we are not suggesting we have a great deal of concern about all these people because the reality is we have a low level of concern about the vast majority of the people we are following.’ She said the agency was being extremely cautious.
The quarantine order, which also bans visitors, was imposed on Wednesday after the individuals inside the apartment tried to leave. The 13-year-old went to Tasby Middle School for part of Wednesday, Dallas News revealed today, but was sent home. School officials said again that no family members were exhibiting Ebola signs. There were concerns over the conditions the family had left in after Mr Duncan’s girlfriend told CNN on Thursday that his sweat-soaked sheets were still on the bed – five days after he was taken to hospital with Ebola symptoms. A cleaning crew was rushed to the scene on Thursday by the CDC following the shocking revelation – only to be turned away by Texas authorities because they did not have the correct permits for transporting hazardous waste.
The hazmat team arrived a full five days after Mr Duncan was rushed by ambulance to Texas Presbyterian hospital showing the contagious symptoms of Ebola. Mr Duncan was now too weak to talk and pray with his family on the phone from his quarantine unit, his nephew Joe Weeks told ABC today.
Meanwhile, a Washington D.C. hospital said today that a patient was being tested for Ebola after presenting with symptoms. The patient, who had recently traveled to Nigeria, was isolated until the tests are completed. Louise Troh said on Thursday that she was tired of being locked up and wants federal health authorities to decontaminate her home. The quarantine order would ensure the group can be closely monitored for signs of the disease at the North Dallas home, Texas State Health Commissioner David Lakey said. Dr Lakey had said during a press conference on Thursday that there had been ‘a little bit of hesitancy’ from cleaning companies when trying to find someone to do the job.
American Red Cross representatives delivered food to the apartment on Thursday and the North Texas Food Bank said it sent cereal, tuna, produce and other supplies. Private security guards and sheriff’s deputies have blocked the entrance to the 300-unit apartment complex to dozens of reporters. Texas health officials expanded their efforts to contain the virus, reaching out to as many as 100 people who may have had direct contact with Duncan or someone close to him. None of them have shown symptoms, but they have been told to notify medical workers if they feel ill, said Erikka Neroes, a spokeswoman for the Dallas County Health and Human Services agency. The at-risk group includes 12 to 18 people who had direct contact with the infected man, including an ambulance crew and a handful of schoolchildren, she said. The others came into contact with that core group.
‘This is a big spider web’ of people, Ms Neroes said. The virus that causes Ebola is not airborne and can only be spread through close contact with someone who has symptoms. People must come into direct contact with the patient’s bodily fluids – blood, sweat, vomit, feces, urine, saliva or semen – and those fluids must have an entry point. Ebola dried on surfaces can survive for several hours, according to the CDC. For example, people might get infected by handling soiled clothing or bed sheets and then touching their mouth, or if they are not wearing gloves while doing those tasks and have a cut on their hand. ‘If you sit next to someone on the bus, you’re not exposed,’ CDC Director Dr Tom Frieden said.
The CDC has come under fire for its chaotic handling of the health crisis. Dr Frieden defended his agency’s response to NBC on Friday, saying that it was the first time a case of Ebola had been diagnosed in the U.S. Dr Frieden said: ‘We have our staff working with the local authorities, we understand bleach has been used and we expect that [the cleaning of the apartment] to be resolved today. Over the coming days, the CDC will work systematically to identify high risk, low risk and no risk contacts of Dallas Ebola patient, the agency said today.
President Obama has called the Dallas mayor to make sure that the local authorities have the resources they need to deal with the crisis. The first Ebola diagnosis in the nation has raised concerns about whether the disease that has killed more than 3,300 people in West Africa could spread in the U.S. Federal health officials say they are confident they can keep it in check.
The number of people under quarantine has also increased. Louise Troh’s daughter Youngor Jallah, her husband and four children are also under quarantine at her apartment, a short distance from her mother’s home. Ms Jallah visited her mother’s home at Ivy Apartments on Sunday morning to check on the condition of 42-year-old Mr Duncan, a man she calls ‘Daddy’. She told The Washington Post that she found him in bed, fully dressed and shivering. After going to buy him a blanket, she brought Mr Duncan some hot tea which is when she noticed the redness of his eyes, a well-publicized sign of Ebola. With his temperature at 102F, Ms Jallah called 911 and described his symptoms which included severe diarrhea, fever and shivering.
The mother-of-four advised the EMTs not to enter the apartment without gloves and face masks, warning them that her stepfather had recently traveled to the U.S. from Africa. An ambulance took Mr Duncan to the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital while she followed in her minivan along with several family members. Ms Jallah brought along the blanket that she had bought earlier for him and which he had had draped around himself until the ambulance had arrived. After many hours of sitting in the ER waiting room she was finally informed that Mr Duncan had been isolated and that no visitors were allowed. The family were not informed that Mr Duncan had suspected Ebola. No one took away the blanket which the contagious man had used or advised the family about what to do next.
Ms Jallah returned to her mother’s apartment, sprayed disinfectant and sprinkled liquid Clorox on the furniture. She told her mother not to sleep on the bed and bought sanitizers, a makeshift mattress and two new blankets. Her next contact with healthcare officials was on Wednesday night when she and her husband Aaron Yah were visited in their second-floor apartment by officials from the state and CDC. The officials took the temperature of everyone in the apartment – Ms Jallah, her husband, their daughter and three sons, aged two to 11. The night before Mr Duncan was quarantined, the children had stayed over at their grandmother’s apartment and slept on her couches. The health workers told the family not to leave their apartment, but when Ms Jallah explained that they didn’t have any food, she was told her that she and her husband could go to the store.The two health officials also said they would return every day to see how the family was doing. So far no one has displayed any Ebola symptoms.
Up to 100 people in Texas are believed to have had contact with Ebola sufferer Thomas Duncan since he developed symptoms of the deadly virus last Thursday at 10pm. Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital earlier reported that Duncan had come for treatment on Friday – but the new timeline adds an extra day to how long he was out in public. The patient’s quarantined girlfriend Louise Troh told CNN on Thursday that she had not been told what to do with the soiled linens used by Duncan when he was ill and had not been given food. The woman has been legally ordered to stay inside her Dallas apartment with her 13-year-old child and two nephews, who are both in their twenties, as they came in direct contact with Duncan.
None of the four people quarantined are showing Ebola symptoms but Ms Troh, who works as a home healthcare aide, has been taking the group’s temperature every hour. Among the 12 people being closely monitored were five children – who attend four area schools. Panic-stricken parents in the area pulled their kids out of classes after they received Ebola fact sheets and notes which said ‘everything is fine’. Schools were also scrubbed down and extra nurses brought in to monitor any students with fevers or flu-like symptoms. The CDC jumped into action on Thursday afternoon, sending a contract team to clear the bedding, provide food and power-wash the apartment complex – a full four days after Mr Duncan was rushed to hospital in an ambulance after suffering vomiting, diarrhea, fever and sweating.
On Thursday afternoon, it was revealed that four sheriff’s deputies, a health director and a doctor, went into the quarantined apartment without protection, NBC5 reported. Two Douglas County Sheriff’s Office patrol cars have now been cordoned off and the deputies have been told to seal their uniforms in bags and go home. Mr Duncan arrived from Liberia, an Ebola ‘hot zone’ in West Africa, on September 20. He began to develop Ebola symptoms – the point when the disease becomes contagious – on September 23. He was sent home from his first hospital trip with antibiotics despite telling two medical staff he had flown in from Liberia. His partner Louise said she doesn’t believe he left the apartment in this time but she cannot be certain because she was at work. His condition deteriorated and he was rushed to hospital via ambulance on Sunday and quarantined.However it was alleged on Thursday that Mr Duncan lied on an airport questionnaire about not having any contact with an infected person, authorities said on Thursday. Mr Duncan filled out a series of questions about his health and activities before leaving on his journey to Dallas, Texas on September 19. On the form he answered no to every question. Among other questions, the form asked whether Duncan had cared for an Ebola patient or touched the body of anyone who had died in an area affected by Ebola.
The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Mr Duncan had helped carried a neighbor’s pregnant daughter who was dying from Ebola. The Liberian government said on Thursday that it planned to prosecute Mr Duncan over the lies while the country’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf told CBC on Thursday that she was ‘very angry’ that Mr Duncan had left Liberia after being exposed to Ebola and that his actions were ‘unpardonable’. President Sirleaf also said that she hoped that no one else would contract the potentially deadly virus which has ravaged her country. And despite Duncan spreading Ebola to the U.S., a U.N. spokesman said on Thursday that air travel to and from the West African countries affected by the Ebola virus should continue. It also appears that Mr Duncan did not mention his close contact with a severe case of Ebola to his partner Louise, with whom he has one child.
She told CNN’s Anderson Cooper during a telephone interview on Thursday that the couple did not discuss Ebola and she initially thought Duncan had malaria when she brought him to Texas Presbyterian. Louise does not believe she has Ebola because she did not come in contact with bodily fluids. She said Mr Duncan was ‘prideful’ in taking care of himself when he became sick. She also did not believe he had vomited repeatedly outside the apartment on Sunday, as a neighbor reported, and wished to reassure her neighbors. Meanwhile, the number of family members who came in contact with Mr Duncan while he was contagious remains unclear, CNN reported. Louise’s daughter, who does not live at the quarantined apartment, was the person who called an ambulance for Mr Duncan on Sunday after she came to her mother’s home to bring him tea and found him feverish and shivering. It is unclear if she traveled with him in the ambulance or came in close contact with the infected man. Louise told CNN that she has other children, who are not currently living at the home but elsewhere in Dallas and also a son at college. They had not come in contact with Mr Duncan, she said.
The family who are isolated in the apartment have been told they face criminal charges if they leave the apartment or accept visitors. Dallas Judge Clay Jenkins told ABC on Thursday that a legal quarantine order was placed on the home after the family tried to break out of the apartment. However MailOnline reported on Wednesday that three individuals – a man in his twenties with a roll of garbage bags and two women – came and left the apartment. Louise said that she has been given no instructions by the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) on how to dispose of the contaminated bedding in the home or what the family would do for food. She said that two CDC workers who visited the home on Wednesday brought sandwiches but they had no other food. At a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Judge Jenkins was quick to respond to those claims, saying that several days supply of food was being delivered to the quarantined group and contaminated material would be removed by biohazard experts. He added that the family were being treated with the ‘utmost respect and dignity’.
The Red Cross were seen delivering food on Thursday to the family’s second story apartment. A young man, who appeared to be one of the adult nephews under quarantine, appeared on the balcony to bring the food inside, dressed in a T-shirt bearing the logo ‘YOLO – You Only Live Once’. Mr Duncan’s partner Louise told CNN on Thursday that she is very worried but keeps praying and has spoken Mr Duncan via telephone. Texas health officials said around 100 people may have come into contact with Mr Duncan and they are being questioned. Authorities have confirmed 12 people including five children had direct contact with Mr Duncan and are being closely monitored. Some parents have pulled their children out of four affected Dallas schools after learning that five students may have come into contact with Mr Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. School administrators appealed for calm as none of the children have shown symptoms and are being told to stay at home, where they will likely remain for three weeks.
Parents and pupils at schools in Dallas where children were possibly infected with Ebola said that they were appalled at how the crisis was being handled. The schools were named as Tasby Middle School, Dan D. Rogers Elementary, Lowe Elementary and Conrad High School. Parents and students were only told on Wednesday that their schools had been affected – a day after the public were informed that a patient had the deadly virus. They were given a letter and a fact sheet but were told it was ‘all fine’ and that children had to remain in school. But Marcie Pardo and other parents left L.L. Hotchkiss Elementary indicating that they were taking no chances and would keep their children home for the rest of the week. ‘Kids pretty much touch everything. Not everyone washes their hands,’ Pardo said. ‘It’s the contagious part that gets me worried.’ Nikki Turner, 31, who has a 13-year-old and a 15-year-old at Tasby Middle School and Conrad High told MailOnline on Thursday that the school authorities ‘could be doing a lot more’. She said: ‘All I’ve been told was in a phone call on Wednesday when they said the children who had it are being taken out and it was all OK.’I had to take my children to hospital last night for blood tests to make sure they’re alright. They are not telling us enough, they need to tell me more.’