DALLAS (AP) — A woman who has been confined to her Dallas apartment under armed guard after a man infected with Ebola stayed at her home, said she never imagined this could happen to her so far from disease-ravaged West Africa.
Louise Troh said Thursday that she is tired of being locked up and wants health authorities to decontaminate her home.
Authorities say the circle of people in the U.S. possibly exposed to Ebola widened after the man, who arrived from Liberia last month, was discharged from a hospital without being tested for the deadly virus.
The confinement order, which also bans visitors, was imposed after the family failed to comply with a request to stay home, according to Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. Texas State Health Commissioner David Lakey said the order would ensure Troh, her 13-year-old son and two nephews can be closely monitored for signs of the disease.
The first Ebola diagnosis in the nation has raised concerns about whether the disease that has killed 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.
Troh said she had imagined she would be safe from the grasp of the virus thousands of miles from her native Liberia, the worst-hit country.
“No one thinks this will happen,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press. She said she and her family are “stressed” about being confined to their home.
“Who wants to be locked up?” she said. Private security guards and sheriff’s deputies blocked the entrance to the 300-unit apartment complex to dozens of reporters.
Troh was waiting for health officials to collect the bed sheets and towels that Thomas Eric Duncan used when he stayed at her home before his Ebola diagnosis.
A hazardous material crew arrived to decontaminate the apartment Thursday evening but didn’t have the required permits to clean and remove hazardous waste, city spokesman Richard Hill said. The crew, contracted by the county and state, would return Friday to complete the job. The family must be relocated before the cleanup can begin, Hill said.
“The challenges are real,” CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said Friday on ABC’s “Good Morning America” when asked about Troh’s situation. But, he said, “I am confident that we will get it sorted out today.”
He was asked on NBC’s “Today” show why the apartment wasn’t immediately cleaned.
“The details of that you’d have to refer to the folks in Dallas,” Frieden said Friday. “But this is, after all, the first time we’ve ever had a case of Ebola in the U.S. and there are issues to make sure that when things are removed that it is not going to be disposed of in any way that could potentially be a risk.”
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 has shown symptoms, but 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, Neroes said.
The virus that causes Ebola is not airborne and can only be spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids — blood, sweat, vomit, feces, urine, saliva or semen — of an infected person who is showing symptoms. Those fluids must also 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.
Duncan’s neighbors in the Liberian capital believe he become infected when he helped a sick pregnant neighbor a few weeks ago. It was not clear if he had learned of the woman’s diagnosis before traveling.
Nonetheless, Liberian authorities announced plans to prosecute Duncan when he returns, accusing him of lying about not having any contact with an infected person.
Duncan filled out a form Sept. 19 about his health and activities before leaving for Dallas. Among the questions on the form, obtained by The Associated Press, one asked whether Duncan had cared for an Ebola patient or touched the body of anyone who had died in an area affected by Ebola. He answered no to all the questions.
“We expect people to do the honorable thing,” said Binyah Kesselly, chairman of the board of directors of the Liberia Airport Authority in Monrovia.
Frieden on Friday dismissed suggestions that people traveling from West Africa should not be allowed into the U.S.
“The fact is that if we tried to seal the border, it would not work because people are allowed to travel,” he said on “Good Morning America.” “It would backfire because it would make it harder to stop the outbreak.”
Duncan arrived in Dallas on Sept. 20 and fell ill a few days later. An emergency room sent Duncan home last week, even though he told a nurse he had been in West Africa.
In a statement emailed late Thursday, the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said it followed communicable disease protocols by asking Duncan if he had come into contact with anyone who was ill, to which he replied he had not.
A flaw in the electronic health records systems led to separate physician and nursing workflows, meaning the travel history documented in the nursing portion did not show up in the physician’s workflow, hospital spokesman Wendell Watson said. He said the system has been corrected.
Duncan’s symptoms included a 100.1 F temperature, abdominal pain, a headache and decreased urination, the hospital said. He said he had no nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, and, based on that, the hospital decided to release him.
He returned to the hospital two days later and has been kept in isolation there since Sunday. Duncan was listed Thursday in serious but stable condition.
Also late Thursday, NBC News reported that an American freelance cameraman working for the network in Liberia has tested positive for the virus and will be flown back to the United States along with the rest of the NBC News crew.
The network is withholding the freelancer’s name at his family’s request.
Liberia is one of the three countries hit hardest in the epidemic, along with Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Schmall reported from Fort Worth. Associated Press writers Krista Larson and Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia, Liberia; Paul J. Weber and David Warren in Dallas; and Lauran Neergaard in Washington contributed to this report.