DALLAS — Three mattresses, linens, a suitcase and clothing used by Thomas Duncan, the man who contracted Ebola and flew from Liberia to the United States, were removed Friday from the apartment where they were left for five days.
Hazardous materials crews began removing the items in large waste drums Friday afternoon in northeast Dallas as the family Duncan had traveled from Liberia to visit waited in another room.
The family was later removed from the apartment complex and transferred to a private residence in Dallas County.
“They are in good spirits,” said Dallas County Fire Marshall Robert Delossantos.
Health officials are closely monitoring those who were living in the apartment for signs that they might have contracted Ebola while Duncan was sick in the home. So far, they have not reported any symptoms, Dallas officials said.
Four people — Louise Troh, the woman Duncan was visiting; her teenage son and two men in their 20s — have been ordered to remain in the apartment at least until Oct. 19, after the 21-day incubation period for the virus has passed.
A citizen came forward in the late afternoon Friday to volunteer a private residence in a gated community that is separate from other homes. Dallas County officials would not say where the family was taken, citing family members’ request for privacy.
They were to be moved as soon as Friday and were expected to spend the rest of the incubation period in the new location, officials said.
“It is not so much a concern that we need to get her (Troh) out of here because it’s dangerous or anything like that,” said Sana Syed, public information officer for the City of Dallas. She said that Troh “is scared. People in this complex are scared.”
The potentially infectious items will be transported to a secure storage location before they are destroyed, the fire marshal said.
Duncan is in isolation at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where he is in serious condition. He stayed at the Ivy Apartments complex, which is part of a broader community known as Vickery Meadow — a diverse neighborhood of immigrants and ethnic groups.
Neighbors have peered from their windows and looked on from their porches as throngs of media surrounded the community beginning Tuesday.
Public health officials say “approximately 10 people” who had contact with Duncan are considered at higher risk, though they emphasized Friday that none of these people had exhibited Ebola symptoms.
“All of those individuals are doing well,” David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, said in a conference call with reporters. “There’s no additional individuals who have symptoms consistent with Ebola at this time.”
Another 40 people are also still being monitored, including health-care workers and other members of the community who encountered Duncan, but these people are considered at low-risk for Ebola, Lakey said.
The overall number of those being monitored has been cut in half since Thursday, when authorities said they were tracking 100 people.
“We’ve cast a wide net,” said Beth P. Bell, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s center for emerging and infectious diseases.
The process of figuring out who to track, called “contact tracing,” involved interviewing Duncan, as well as anyone who had gone into the Dallas apartment.
“Everyone who worked in the ER that night, all the way down, were at risk,” said David Kuhar, an infection control medical officer at the CDC. “You cast as wide a net as possible and then you just whittle down, whittle down.”
Duncan had been staying with Troh at her apartment since arriving in the United States from Liberia on Sept. 20. He began getting ill by Thursday, at which point he sought medical treatment at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Despite the fact that he said he had traveled from West Africa and had a fever and abdominal pain, he was diagnosed with a virus and released.
His condition worsened in the days that followed, as he developed a worse fever and felt weak and cold, before he ultimately was brought back to the hospital Sunday in an ambulance. He was placed into isolation and diagnosed Tuesday.
According to health officials, a person with Ebola is only contagious when he or she is exhibiting symptoms, which means that Duncan may have been contagious for up to four days before he was placed in isolation.
The White House sought to reassure the public that it was ready to combat the epidemic in West Africa as well as any other potential cases in the United States.
“The United States is prepared to deal with this crisis, both at home and in the region,” Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, said during a briefing Friday at the White House. “Every Ebola outbreak in the past 40 years has been stopped. We know how to do this, and we will do it again.”
The Army announced Friday that it would send additional troops to West Africa to help combat the epidemic. The Army will send about 3,200 soldiers to help supervise the construction of Ebola treatment units and support command operations. and otherwise assist in the response.
The World Health Organization announced that the Ebola death toll is up to 3,439 in West Africa. Eight of the deaths came in Nigeria, but the balance was in the Ebola-ravaged nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Brady Dennis, J. Freedom du Lac and Abby Ohlheiser in Washington, and Amy Ellis Nutt in Dallas contributed to this report. Berman reported from Washington.