American Quarantined in Liberia for Ebola Dies of Unrelated Illness
The first American death attributed to Ebola may not have been caused by the virus at all. Nathaniel Dennis of Columbia, Maryland, died in Monrovia, Liberia, after experiencing a seizure and entering a coma; his family blames the hospital, which, fearing Ebola, did not allow them to transfer him to a better medical center.
His mother found 24-year-old Nathaniel Dennis lying stiff and comatose in their home on July 24. According to an interview with CBS News, articles around the house had been shattered, indicating that Dennis had a seizure before succumbing to the coma. He did not exhibit the trademark symptoms of Ebola, even upon his death: fever, profuse bleeding, vomiting, or diarrhea. He also tested negative for the Ebola virus. He simply appeared comatose.
Despite the lack of symptoms, JFK Hospital in Monrovia quarantined Dennis and refused to let his family transfer him to another hospital better equipped to handle what appeared to be a neurological disorder.
Dennis died at the hospital and remains in quarantine, his family prevented from taking him home or performing a proper autopsy. His sister, Natasha, tells CBS News, "No one tried to help us because everyone was too afraid. ... When we travel, we have confidence as American citizens. This experience has taken that confidence away for me."
Dennis lived in Monrovia with his mother, who fled the country's civil wars and had Dennis and his sister on U.S. soil. Natasha has begun a social media campaign to raise awareness of her brother's death and the dangers of allowing the fear of Ebola to interfere with the treatment of other illnesses:
Natasha also told CBS News that the U.S. Embassy in Liberia was not able to help the family when they contacted them.
Natasha and her brother, Norwood Dennis, told NBC's local Washington affiliate that they will continue to struggle to bring their brother back to the United States and give him a proper burial, hosting a fundraiser to help pay for the funeral costs.
Even preparing a funeral has proven difficult for the family, as the hospital in Liberia is refusing to allow transfer of the body, fearing that his body would spread Ebola, even though his body continued not to exhibit symptoms of the disease.
While there is no indication Dennis died of Ebola, he is the first United States citizen to die as a result of the Ebola crisis. Two U.S. aid workers in Liberia, Dr. Kent Brantley and Nancy Writebol, are the only two known Americans who have contracted the disease. One or both are said to have traveled from Liberia to Atlanta, Georgia, overnight, though few details have surfaced of their treatment or even which one--or whether both--have arrived in the United States.