The family living in the Dallas apartment where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan got sick has been moved to a private residence in a gated community, and a hazardous-materials crew has decontaminated their apartment, city officials said.
Authorities pleaded with the public Saturday to be sensitive to those being evaluated for Ebola and not to shun them.
“The people who are being monitored are people just like your family,” Dallas Judge Clay Jenkins said at a daily update hosted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “There is a lot of misinformation and erroneous fear. … The people that are being monitored are real people, too — that need your prayers.”
The treatment of the family drew criticism when they were quarantined in an apartment with Duncan’s contaminated belongings for days.
Jenkins says he went to the apartment with two epidemiologists to apologize for the delay in removing the soiled items, which happened five days after Duncan was admitted to the hospital.
Hotels, apartments and other providers had refused to take the family, city spokeswoman Sana Syed said.
“No one wants this family,” Syed said.
The family — Louise Troh, originally from Liberia, her 13-year-old son and two nephews — was confined at home under armed guard while public health officials monitored them .
Troh said she couldn’t understand why she and her family were left to live for four days with Duncan’s contaminated belongings.
“Only the towel is in the plastic bag, but the rest of his stuff stayed the same on the bed,” Troh said. “The bedsheets, everything is on the bed.”
A hazardous materials crew arrived Friday to bag up and sanitize the materials.
Meanwhile, Duncan is in an intensive care unit in Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. “He is ill,” says David Lakey, commissioner of health at the Texas Department of Health. “Our prayers and our thoughts are with him right now.”
Dallas County and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemiologists have narrowed the list of people who may have had contact with Duncan and are being monitored from 100 to 50. Only nine of those contacts are considered high-risk.
The higher-risk contacts are being monitored for fever twice daily. They are not allowed to leave their residence or have visitors.
Ashoka Mukpo, an American freelance video journalist working for NBC News in Liberia, was diagnosed Thursday with Ebola and was being treated in the capital of Monrovia. He was expected to return to the United States this weekend along with the rest of the news crew.
The virus that causes Ebola is not airborne and can be spread only through direct contact with the bodily fluids — blood, sweat, vomit, feces, urine, saliva or semen — of an infected person who is showing symptoms.
About 230 U.S. troops have been deployed for the Ebola mission. About two dozen are in Senegal setting up a transportation center and the rest are in Liberia. The Army on Friday said that up to 3,200 soldiers from various units around the country will be going to Liberia, including 1,800 from Fort Campbell, Ky., who will arrive later this month.
The CDC is working in infected countries to perform exit screening, CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a daily update on Saturday. So far, 77 people have not boarded airplanes due to the screening process that looks for fever or obvious symptoms, he says.
“The first case of Ebola is obviously scary and unprecedented,” Frieden said. “I know there have been a lot of concerns about the process of monitoring people when they come into this country. our number one priority is the safety of Americans.”
Contributing: The Associated Press, WFAA