DALLAS — Five elementary, middle and high school students who had contact with a man diagnosed in Dallas with Ebola are being monitored, Texas officials said Wednesday.
The children, who attend four different schools, went to classes earlier in the week but show no symptoms of the deadly disease and will be monitored at home, officials said.
Also, a health official said information about the patient’s recent travel from Liberia was not relayed to the full clinical team that initially treated him at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on Friday. The patient was sent home with antibiotics.
He was brought back in an ambulance on Sunday and was placed in isolation. Tests confirmed Tuesday that he is infected with the Ebola virus. He is in serious but stable condition.
Some in the city have said they are worried about the public health implications. Public health officials are searching for all those who came into contact with the patient when he became infectious and will monitor them for 21 days in case they develop symptoms.
The three emergency medical workers who took the patient to the hospital on Sunday tested negative for the Ebola virus and have been sent home, the city tweeted. They too will be monitored during the incubation period of the virus.
When the unidentified patient stepped off a commercial airliner on Sept. 20 he did not show symptoms and went to North Texas to visit family members.
Liberia is one of several countries battling an Ebola epidemic in West Africa that is believed to have killed more than 3,000 people. The virus is spread through contact with the bodily fluids of those who have developed symptoms.
An apartment building not far from Texas Health Presbyterian became the center of attention in the Ebola scare on Wednesday as reports said that the first victim to be diagnosed in the U.S. stayed there with family before being taken to the hospital over the weekend.
News crews surrounded the Ivy Apartments, about a mile from the Dallas hospital. Residents described the complex as a multi-ethnic community of Liberians, Nepalis and other nationalities.
Toni Gomez, 29, stood outside holding her 1-year-old daughter, Demauria Griffen. She said that people in the neighborhood were afraid to even go near the hospital.
“My mother called me and said, ‘Do not go to Texas Health Presbyterian. You could catch Ebola.’ And I said, ‘Mama, that’s the closest hospital I can go to. What do you want me to do?’ ”
Sandra Sestic, 20, stood behind a wrought-iron fence as a dozen TV cameras pointed in her direction. She said that the apartment complex management had not told residents anything about the possible health scare.
“We’re afraid for the kids,” she said, adding that she lives nearby and comes to the Ivy to take care of a relative’s children.
A woman with a Russian accent who asked not to be identified said the last 24 hours had been crazy.
“When I got back from English class before 3 pm yesterday, I hear the helicopters, fly, fly, fly,” she said. “I have no idea what they want with our community. Is somebody sick here?”
Patients being treated at the Dallas hospital and their families have expressed concern about how officials were responding to the case and called for more information to be released about the individual infected.
Some people who work near the sprawling brick hospital complex surrounded by leafy office parks had questions and expressed concern for the community.
“Didn’t he have to take a test before he left?” Michael Akers, 38, of Dallas asked as he waited for a bus home from work outside the hospital.
Akers, who works at another nearby hospital sterilizing medical equipment, said he wanted to know what would be done with equipment used to treat the Ebola patient — and what would happen to others who may have been exposed to him once he was sick. He said he hopes officials act fast to trace the patient’s movements.
“How did he get to the hospital? Because I’m about to take the bus,” Akers said.
He and co-workers had been talking about the case the day before, and although they know the disease is not airborne, he said authorities need to continue the information flow about the virus to quell rumors.
“All they can do is just educate folks. There’s always going to be somebody who’s skeptical,” he said.
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Marquita Williams, 30, who was also waiting for the bus, was suspicious that more had not been done to stop the infection and was concerned “that it’s set to spread.”
She couldn’t understand how the patient made it to Dallas.
“If they know the cause is from West Africa, why aren’t they quarantining these folks before they come or sending the treatments over there?” she said.
Williams, who works in a Texas Instruments manufacturing plant, had discussed the Ebola case with co-workers and read up on the disease overnight, so she knew it can take days for patients to sicken. But she still thought U.S. authorities should improve screening.
“I just hope they come up with some solution to contain it,” she said.
Waiting nearby for a light rail train, culinary student Michael Minter said he hopes the case increases local awareness of the Ebola outbreak in Africa.
“We tend to take for granted that this can’t happen in our city,” said Minter, 50. “He may not be the last one.”
(Los Angeles Times staff writer Matt Pearce contributed to this report from Los Angeles.)
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