The government of Liberia has announced that they plan on prosecuting Thomas Eric Duncan, the first man to ever be diagnosed with the Ebola virus on U.S. soil. Duncan, they claim, may have lied about having contact with people who had contracted the Ebola virus during an airport screening before leaving Monrovia.
The Associated Press reports that Liberian officials have decided to prosecute Duncan for what amounts to fraud and lying to the authorities. AP reporters saw the questionnaire Duncan filled out before leaving Monrovia, which explicitly asked a number of questions regarding contact with the Ebola virus, including whether the person had been in contact with someone who was known to have contracted Ebola. Duncan answered “no” to every question, which allowed him to board a flight out of Monrovia to Brussels, with a transfer in Washington, D.C. before arriving in Texas.
The chairman of the board of directors of the Liberia Airport Authority, Binyah Kesselly, said that the Ministry of Justice had given permission to pursue legal avenues towards punishing Duncan, in large part to deter subsequent episodes of individuals lying to travel to countries with better health care systems. “We expect people to do the honorable thing,” he added. Kesselly added that those in Liberia “wish him a very speedy recovery,” but nonetheless await him to return to face the law.
Duncan arrived on U.S. soil with no outward symptoms of the Ebola virus, and according to reports only began exhibiting them recently. Relatives in Liberia believe that he came into contact with the virus upon helping a neighbor, a 19-year-old pregnant woman, travel to a hospital in Monrovia to be treated for Ebola. The hospital rejected her, and Duncan helped her return home, where she died some hours later.
In Texas, the attendant hospital reported that he arrived with a fever and “abdominal pain,” though friends said he was vomiting by the time he arrived at the hospital. This distinction is extremely important, as individuals only become contagious when having contracted the ebola virus after showing symptoms of the disease– and, in those cases, it is through their bodily fluids that they spread the disease. The presence of vomit during his first visit, when he was released and sent home with antibiotics, has created significant alarm regarding those around him who may have come into contact with him. Duncan’s family in Texas is currently under quarantine, and may face criminal charges for leaving their homes without explicit permission from authorities.