The apartment where Thomas Duncan stayed in Dallas had still not been cleaned Friday morning, though this is expected to happen during the day, health officials said.
Still, this means that three days after Duncan was diagnosed, his quarantined relatives remained in an apartment with bags containing the sheets Duncan slept on and the blanket used to cover him while he was feverish, weak and feeling cold.
“This is something we expect to get resolved today,” Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an interview Friday morning on the “Today” show.
Frieden said the CDC has been working alongside local authorities to get the apartment cleaned. So far, he said that bleach has been used to clean the apartment. The delay speaks to the fact that, while authorities continue to stress that they are prepared for Ebola and ready to contain any cases, this situation is unprecedented in the United States.
“This is, after all, the first time we’ve ever had a case of Ebola in the U.S.,” he said.
As many as 100 people may have had contact with Duncan, a Liberian man, according to the CDC. However, they expect the actual number of people who had direct contact and require monitoring to be much lower, as they are trying to track down everyone with whom he had contact.
Four people in this apartment have been quarantined and ordered to remain home. The sheets Duncan slept on and his belongings have been placed in sealed plastic bags, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said in a news conference Thursday.
But there was a delay in getting the apartment cleaned because there was “a little bit of hesitancy” in finding a company to do the work, David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, said Thursday.
In addition, officials were waiting for a permit that would allow hazardous materials to be taken on the state’s highways, according to the Associated Press.
People with Ebola are only contagious when they are displaying symptoms. Duncan began showing symptoms by Sept. 25, and that night he went to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Even though he told the hospital he had traveled from West Africa, and had a fever and some abdominal pain, he was diagnosed with a low-grade virus and sent home, according to Texas Health Resources, the health-care system that oversees this hospital.
Duncan had told a nurse about his travel from Liberia, but that information was not shared with the entire team treating him. The hospital issued a statement late Thursday night saying that the lapse occurred because of the way the facility’s electronic health records system is set up.
Nurses and physicians see different portions of the system, and a patient’s travel history is included in the nurse’s segment but not the doctor’s, so “the travel history would not automatically” be visible to a doctor looking at the electronic record, the hospital said.
The facility has changed its system so that the travel history portion now appears before both nurses and physicians and specifically references the West African region being devastated by the epidemic, it said Thursday night.