Texas tracks 50 exposed to Ebola, 10 'high risk'

Texas health officials were monitoring 50 people for Ebola exposure Friday, 10 of whom are at high risk of the disease after close contact with the first diagnosed US patient.

The 50 were narrowed down from an initial pool of 100 people thought to have come into contact with the sick man.

They are being checked for fever twice daily, and are currently “doing well,” said David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services.

“Most of these individuals are low risk. There are about 10 individuals that are at high risk, so we are watching those individuals very carefully.”

The people are health care workers and those who came in close contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, who traveled from Liberia to Texas in late September and was announced Tuesday as the first diagnosed US case of Ebola.

The 50 people will be followed for 21 days to see if they develop symptoms such as fever, aches, vomiting or diarrhea, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“This does not imply that we have a high level of concern for most of these people,” the head of CDC’s national infectious diseases unit, Beth Bell, told reporters.

– Closely monitored –

Duncan’s girlfriend and three members of her family have meanwhile been ordered to stay inside in a Dallas apartment under police guard.

A hazardous materials team arrived Friday to remove the sheets and towels Duncan used while he was sick, according to pictures posted online by the Dallas City Hall.

A cleanup team was turned away on Thursday over permit issues, said Clay Lewis Jenkins, a Dallas County judge.

“I went inside the apartment with two CDC epidemiologists last night to apologize to the family for the delay in getting those removed,” Jenkins said.

CDC officials continued to monitor the health of the four people in the apartment, but Duncan’s girlfriend, Louise, complained of the quarantine.

“They did not bring food yet,” Louise told CNN.

“I’m just hanging in there, depending on God to save our lives.”

Louise said she cleaned the apartment with bleach after Duncan’s Ebola diagnosis and, when asked if she came into contact with Duncan’s fluids, she said she did not think she had.

The family has been ordered to stay in the apartment until October 19, the end of the incubation period.

– Potential new case –

Meanwhile, concerns mounted elsewhere in the United States about the potential spread of Ebola, which has already killed 3,338 people in West Africa, .

A patient with Ebola-like symptoms who recently traveled to Nigeria was hospitalized at Howard University in Washington.

“In an abundance of caution, we have activated the appropriate infection control protocols, including isolating the patient,” hospital spokeswoman Kerry-Ann Hamilton told AFP.

A 33-year-old American cameraman for NBC News was diagnosed with Ebola in Liberia on Thursday and was said to be returning to the United States for treatment.

The State Department has helped facilitate the return home of a total of five Americans from West Africa for Ebola treatment, and a sixth with a high risk for Ebola exposure since the outbreak began earlier this year, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

She said the five include the freelance cameraman, Ashoka Mukpo.

He is scheduled to arrive in Omaha, Nebraska Monday morning and will be treated at the same facility where Sacra recovered last month, a Nebraska Medical Center spokesman told AFP.

Other Americans who have returned from West Africa with Ebola diagnoses are Christian missionary doctors Kent Brantly and Rick Sacra and missionary worker Nancy Writebol. They recovered.

There was also an unnamed American who was evacuated from Sierra Leone for treatment at Emory University in early September. That patient’s condition and identity are unknown.

Another American named Patrick Sawyer was also infected. A dual US-Liberian citizen, he became ill while traveling on a plane from Liberia to Nigeria in July and later died of Ebola.

Sawyer is believed to have infected others in Nigeria, where as many as eight people have died from Ebola.