It now appears highly likely that Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian national being treated for Ebola in a Dallas hospital, knew he had been directly exposed to the deadly disease before he flew to the United States. It also appears likely that Duncan lied about that exposure, thus putting dozens, if not hundreds of people, at risk.
ABC News is reporting that authorities in Liberia — where Ebola is raging through the population — say they will prosecute Duncan, should he recover from the deadly viral infection and return to his homeland.
The Liberian man infected with Ebola who brought the disease to the United States will be prosecuted when he returns home for lying on his airport screening questionnaire, Liberian authorities said Thursday.
With an Ebola epidemic raging in West Africa, passengers leaving Liberia are being screened for fever and are asked if they have had contact with anyone infected.
On the form obtained by The Associated Press and confirmed by a government official, Thomas Eric Duncan answered “no” to questions about whether he had cared for an Ebola patient or touched the body of someone who had died in an area affected by Ebola.
An extensive report in the New York Times details how Duncan was exposed to Ebola when he helped people in Monrovia, Liberia who were suffering from the virus.
Mr. Duncan, the first person to develop symptoms outside Africa during the current epidemic, had direct contact with a woman stricken by Ebola on Sept. 15, just four days before he left Liberia for the United States, the woman’s parents and Mr. Duncan’s neighbors said.
The family of Marthalene Williams, an Ebola victim, said Thomas E. Duncan helped take her to and from a hospital in Monrovia last month.
Mr. Duncan, who was a family friend and also a tenant in a house owned by the Williams family, rode in the taxi in the front passenger seat while Ms. Williams, her father and her brother, Sonny Boy, shared the back seat, her parents said. Mr. Duncan then helped carry Ms. Williams, who was no longer able to walk, back to the family home that evening, neighbors said.
The man referred to in the article as “Sonny Boy” later died from his Ebola infection.
CNN reports that a man named Smallwood, who claims to be a half-brother of Dallas Ebola patient Thomas Duncan, says that he doesn’t believe Duncan knew he had Ebola when he left Liberia for the United States. Other reports we’ve cited, however, would call that belief into serious question.
Smallwood said that when Duncan first visited Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, neither Duncan nor the hospital knew then that he had Ebola.
This was Duncan’s first time in the United States, Smallwood said. Smallwood left Liberia nine years ago to move to the United States, where many relatives live. Smallwood currently lives in Phoenix.
Duncan, a resident of Liberia, was visiting his son and his son’s mother in Dallas, Smallwood said.
Health officials in Liberia, where Thomas Duncan began his trip to the United States — a journey that put him aboard several different airplanes packed with people who may have been exposed to Duncan’s illness — claim the man was showing no symptoms when he began his trip.
Officials have said Duncan was showing no symptoms when he boarded the plane and he was therefore not contagious. Ebola can only be spread through the bodily fluids of people showing signs of the disease.
This claim, however, does not lessen the likelihood that Thomas E. Duncan knew he was carrying the Ebola virus and may have come to the U.S. to seek treatment that was not available in his native country.
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