First US Ebola patient dies in hospital

Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan experienced symptoms shortly after arriving to Dallas on September 20.

US Secretary of State John Kerry issued an "urgent plea" for world to step up efforts against Ebola [AFP]
US Secretary of State John Kerry issued an "urgent plea" for world to step up efforts against Ebola [AFP]

The first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States has died at a Dallas hospital, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital’s spokesman Wendell Watson said.

Shortly after arriving to Dallas on September 20, Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan fell ill but was sent home after an initial visit to the emergency room. He was taken back to the hospital on September 28 and has been kept in isolation ever since.

Health officials have identified 10 people, including seven health workers, who had direct contact with Duncan while he was contagious. Another 38 people also may have come into contact with him.

Everyone who potentially had contact with Duncan will be monitored for 21 days, the normal incubation period for the disease which is only transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluid of a patient.

US Secretary of State John Kerry issued an “urgent plea” to all nations to ramp up their response to the fight against Ebola, which has killed over 3,400 people in West Africa.

“More countries can and must step up,” Kerry told reporters after talks with his British counterpart Philip Hammond, warning there were “still not enough countries to be able to make a difference.”

US Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said agents at airports and other ports of entry were ordered to observe everyone arriving to the US for potential signs of Ebola infection. 

Mayorkas did not elaborate on how they would observe people or say when the new measures would begin. He said agents would observe all travelers for “general signs of illness” at the points of entry. He spoke at an airport security conference near Washington on Wednesday.

According to the BBC, Britain will send 750 troops to Sierra Leone to help build an Ebola treatment centre. Without citing sources, the BBC said the troops would be sent as part of Britain’s international response to the deadly virus.

The World Health Organisation says Ebola is believed to have killed more than 600 people in Sierra Leone, where there have been more than 2,100 confirmed cases.

Sierra Leone Strike 

Also in Sierra Leone, burial teams ended a strike over pay that started on Tuesday and led to highly-contagious corpses of Ebola victims being left at homes and on the streets of the capital Freetown. 

The Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation reported this week that bodies of Ebola victims were being left in homes and on the streets of Freetown because of the strike by burial teams. The dead bodies of Ebola victims are highly contagious.

But in a radio interview on Wednesday, Sierra Leone’s deputy health minister Madina Rahman said the strike had been “resolved.”

Later in the day, a team could be seen loading bodies outside a government hospital for burial in the west of Freetown.

The team’s leader declined to be interviewed but said members had been promised hazard pay by the end of the day.

Rahman said the dispute centered on a one-week backlog for hazard pay that had been deposited in the bank but was not given to burial teams on time.

In neighbouring Liberia, health workers brace to kick off a strike if their demands of $700 as monthly salaries and safety equipment are not met by the end of the week.

‘Touched her face’

Meanwhile in Spain, health officials are investigating how a nurse became the first person known to have contracted the deadly virus outside of Africa.

While Dr. German Ramirez of the Carlos III hospital said that the forty-year-old nurse believes she touched her face with a protective glove she wore while attending to an Ebola patient, Spanish local media report the infection was the result of a series of human errors. 

Teresa Romero, who was part of a medical team that handed Spanish missionary who were repatriated from West Africa after catching the disease, reported a high fever days after a priest died of the disease, but was prescribed painkillers by the hospital, Spain’s El Pias said on Wednesday.

Spanish authorities are investigating how Romero, who was tested positive for the disease on Monday, has contracted the virus as fear of a breakout in Spain and Europe grows.

Romero is now quarantined along with five other Spaniards while 22 others are being monitored closely for symptoms that include fever, diarrhoea and vomiting. The nurse was part of a medical team that attended to a Spanish missionary who died of Ebola on September 25, and is believed to have entered his room twice prior to his death.

Spanish animal rights activists scuffled with police as they blocked the way to Romero’s apartment where medics sought to take away her dog. The pet, mixed breed dog named Excalibur, will be killed after a court order was issued saying “available scientific” information can’t rule out “risk of contagion.”

Source: News Agencies

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