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Man Diagnosed With Ebola In Texas Dies In Hospital


Thomas Eric Duncan has died. He was the first person diagnosed with Ebola while he was in the United States. He spent his final days in a Dallas hospital after traveling from Liberia to the U.S. and then falling ill. NPR’s Wade Goodwyn has been covering this story. He’s in Dallas. Hi, Wade.


INSKEEP: So what have you been able to learn about Mr. Duncan’s death?

GOODWYN: Well, not a whole lot so far. It apparently happened at about 7:51 this morning. The hospital released this statement.

(Reading) It is with profound sadness and heartfelt disappointment that we must inform you of the death of Mr. Duncan. He succumbed to an insidious disease, Ebola, and fought courageously in this battle. Our professionals – the doctors and nurses in the unit, as well as the entire Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas Community – are grieving with his passing. We are offering the family our support in this difficult time.

So I think everyone is saddened and a little shook up by Mr. Duncan’s death, but beginning this weekend he had taken a turn for the worst. So, you know, we can’t say it was completely unexpected.

INSKEEP: You know, I can’t say that, but it is a reminder of how deadly this virus is because he was one patient – the only patient in this particular situation, the whole country was paying attention, he must have had the best possible care.

GOODWYN: Well, I think there was a lot of hope that Mr. Duncan having made it to the United States, having made it to Dallas, having now being in Presbyterian Hospital’s intensive care unit in its isolation unit that they were going to be able to save him. We have saved several other patients in this country who have contracted Ebola and have come back to be treated here.

He was given the experimental drug Brincidofovir and the hospital reported that that seemed to improve his liver function a bit, but, you know, beginning this past weekend he was in declining health. He was on a ventilator. He was not talking. He went from serious condition back to critical condition – which was where he was soon after he was admitted to Presbyterian. And the staff was fighting an essentially a rear-guarded and ultimately losing battle to keep him alive.

INSKEEP: You say a rear-guard, losing battle. Could the staff have had a better chance of saving him if they had caught this earlier? Let’s remember this is a man who went to the emergency room once, was turned away and had to return days later.

GOODWYN: Well, with a disease like Ebola it’s extremely hard to say. I mean, there’s a temptation to say that with any disease the early you begin meaningful hospital treatment the better it’s going to go for the patient, but I’m not sure we can make that kind of leap with Ebola. Obviously the hospital’s mistake put the general public in Dallas at risk because it released an infectious Mr. Duncan back into the world for two days where he put at least 10 people at serious risk for contracting the disease and another 40 at small risk. But would Mr. Duncan’s outcome had been different had he been admitted on Friday instead of Sunday? I would be very reluctant to put forth that idea. His outcome may well have been exactly the same.

INSKEEP: OK. Let’s talk then about the people you just mentioned – the 10 people considered to be at serious risk, the 40 at some risk. What is the latest that is known as authorities monitor them?

GOODWYN: Well, this is a very big week for the 10 who are considered at serious risk for contracting Ebola because this is their third week since their exposure, but so far so good.

INSKEEP: Let’s remember it’s usually about 21 days you’re supposed to wait to see if you’re infected.

GOODWYN: That’s right, so, so far so good. Nobody is showing any symptoms; everyone here in Dallas is taking it day by day.

INSKEEP: And they just continue to monitor? They continue to check-in with health authorities on a daily basis?

GOODWYN: Yes. You know, if you’re part of the 40 who are not considered at serious risk you’re monitoring yourself, you’re talking to health authorities once a day; you’re taking your own temperature. Obviously for those 10 who are considered at serious risk they are being visited by CDC personnel and being monitored pretty closely.

INSKEEP: Wade, thanks very much as always.

GOODWYN: Thank you so much.

INSKEEP: That’s NPR’s Wade Goodwyn in Dallas where the news we have today is that Tomas Eric Duncan has died. He was the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola while he was within the United States. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Wade Goodwyn is an NPR National Desk Correspondent covering Texas and the surrounding states.