As we discuss the current Ebola virus outbreaks, it is critical that we avoid both panic and the spread of misinformation.
The case of Thomas Eric Duncan, the first diagnosed case of Ebola in the US, illustrated correctable problems. Communicating his travel history was essential. Also, Mr. Duncan was sent home the first time he visited the hospital despite giving a travel history of coming from Liberia. He was discharged and sent home with a fever. By the time he was admitted to the hospital four days later, he was in critical condition. His delay in receiving timely care very likely contributed to his demise. It is concerning that his care may have been impacted by his race and lacking health insurance. So far none of his 72 contacts have shown symptoms of the disease. However, there has been considerable stigmatization of the contacts and neighbors.
To date only two confirmed Ebola virus infection cases connected to Mr. Duncan are healthcare workers from the hospital that treated Mr. Duncan. The worker has only one known contact since she developed symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state public health department are involved in close monitoring of contacts and evaluating how the health worker became infected. Seventy-six people were involved in Mr Duncan’s care while he was in the hospital. So far only one worker has been diagnosed with Ebola. Contrast this to the many West African healthcare workers who have died due to their work with Ebola patients.