On 8 October 2014, Thomas Eric Duncan a 42 year old Liberian resident who made his living as a driver for the General Manager of Safeway Cargo in Liberia became "Patient Zero" for Ebola in America.
Mr. Duncan quit his job on September 4 without giving any reason for his departure. On 15 September, the family of Marthalene Williams tried to get an ambulance to transport Ms. Williams from her home to a medical treatment facility in Monrovia, Liberia as Ms. Williams was showing signs of Ebola. The family was unable to get medical transport so Mr. Duncan and others transported her by taxi. Mr. Duncan rode in the back seat with Ms. Williams and helped carry her to the vehicle. The family could not get Ms. Williams into the Ebola treatment facility as the facility simply had no beds. The family and Mr. Duncan returned to the family home in a taxi whereby Mr. Duncan helped move Ms. Williams back into the family home. Ms. Williams succumbed to Ebola later that evening.
Four days after being exposed to Ms. Williams, Mr. Duncan presented himself at the airport and Liberia and purchased a ticket with Brussels Airlines. Mr. Duncan flew from Monrovia to Brussels at which time he boarded United Airlines Flight 951 to Washington D.C.'s John Foster Dulles Airport. Mr. Duncan then boarded United Airlines Flight 822 and arrived at the Dallas / Fort Worth Airport at 7:01 PM on 20 September. Mr. Duncan then went to stay at the home of a former partner and her five children in the community of Fair Oaks in Dallas. The government of Liberia has said that Mr. Duncan lied when he boarded the flight out of Monrovia by saying that he had not been exposed to Ebola.
On 25 September, Mr. Duncan presented himself to medical staff at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital (THPH). Mr. Duncan was treated for a temperature that spiked at 103 and it was reported that he complained of abdominal pain for two days, a headache and decreased urination. Mr. Duncan denied any vomiting, diarrhea or nausea during his first visit to the ER. Mr. Duncan told the staff that he had just arrived from Liberia but he lied to staff and told them he had not been around anyone sick recently. Apparently, because his temperature had been reduced, Mr. Duncan received antibiotics and was sent home with a diagnosis of "low-grade, common viral disease".
While Mr. Duncan was seeking treatment in Dallas, Mr. Sonny Boy Williams, the older brother of Marthalene Williams who had passed away from Ebola on 15 September fell ill. Mr. Williams had help transport his sister along with Mr. Duncan on 15 September. Mr. Williams family called for assistance and on 24 September he was taken by ambulance from the family home. In truth, the family home is where Mr. Duncan lived as he was renting a room from the Williams family.
Because the world has become smaller and smaller thanks to travel and the internet the New York Times was able to confirm that Mr. Williams, like his sister before him, quickly succumbed to Ebola and died on 24 September the day before Mr. Duncan first presented himself to the ER at THPH. In reality the "smallness" of the world was accentuated by the New York Times publication of what could be the last photo of Mr. Williams just before he was taken away by ambulance (below).
Mr. Duncan returned to THPH on 28 September with symptoms of vomiting with nausea and an increased temperature. Two days after his admission to THPH the Center for Disease Control confirmed his diagnosis with Ebola. Mr. Duncan was isolated and began treatment. The experimental drug ZMapp which had been given in earlier cases of health care workers who had been diagnosed with Ebola could not be given to Mr. Duncan as the supply was depleted. The possibility of giving Mr. Duncan a blood transfusion from Dr. Kent Brantly was explored but it was found that the blood types were incompatible. Mr. Duncan was then given the experimental drug brincidofovir on 4 October even though the drug did not receive emergency approval as an experimental drug from the Food and Drug Administration until 6 October. But, like his former housemates, all was for naught as Mr. Duncan died on 8 October at 7:51 am, twenty-three days after transporting Ms. Williams and fifteen days after Mr. Williams.
Since Mr. Duncan's death his family in Dallas has enlisted the help of Rainbow Push Coalition Founder and Civil Rights Activist, Rev. Jessie Jackson. The family believes that Mr. Duncan was not treated with the best of care and that such poor treatment can be explained only by racism. The family has indicated they are considering taking legal action against THPH.
Sadly the family forgets that it was Mr. Duncan who lied to board a plane and come to America. It was Mr. Duncan who lied to THPH by saying he had not been around anyone sick. Had Mr. Duncan called back to Monrovia and spoken to anyone between his arrival (20 September) and the death of Mr. Williams (24 September)? Did Mr. Duncan know that Mr. Williams died prior to his arrival at the THPH ER (25 September)? Did the family not notice he was given an experimental drug before it was even approved as a means to try and save his life? Is the family unaware that Dr. Brantly had offered to do a transfusion but that because of blood types it was not possible? Is the family angered by Mr. Duncan placing the five children in the home at risk by coming into the home after he knew he had been exposed? But . . . of course . . . racism is the reason a man from Liberia died - right.
As we all know from Mr. Duncan we now have Nurse Nina Pham who treated Mr. Duncan and has been diagnosed with Ebola. Today (10/15/14) it was announced that Nurse Amber Joy Vinson who also treated Mr. Duncan has been diagnosed with Ebola and that she had been on Frontier Airlines Flight 1143 from Cleveland to Dallas-Fort Worth with 132 passengers on 10/13/14. Of course the CDC says that there is minimal risk as Ms. Vinson was not showing any signs at the time but that all 132 passengers are being asked to call 1-800-CDC-INFO, just in case.
Just how many people have been or will be infected as a result of "patient zero"? Will our government address this issue effectively? Is there a reason why we simply cannot suspend all travel to and from West Africa until the Ebola outbreak is contained? More questions then answers.