North Texas

Family Leaves Apartment Shared With Ebola Patient

Family leaves apartment, destination unknown

A hazardous-materials crew on Friday decontaminated the Texas apartment where an Ebola patient was staying when he got sick and hours later, the family that was living in the apartment was moved to a private residence in a gated community that was offered by a volunteer.

The family that lived in an apartment with the man who contracted Ebola left the home as HazMat teams worked to decontaminate the apartment. At the same time health officials narrowed the number of at-risk people being monitored.

The family of four was seen being led from the apartment late Friday afternoon. They were placed in a Dallas County deputy's patrol car and driven away. Their destination was not known.

The family was placed in a Dallas County deputy's patrol car and driven away, apparently leaving with nothing more than the clothes they wore.

"Our hope is that they can have some peace and that they can be left alone, for a few days at least, in that undisclosed location," said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. "And our hope is that the people who live around the apartment complex that they were in, that their lives can get back to normal."

Dallas county and city leaders, as well as health officials updated the Ebola case investigation Friday night.

Neighbors stood on their balconies and watched the family's grim departure from behind the black tarp hung to shield their front door from view.

Jennifer Staubach Gates, who represents District 13 where the apartment complex is located, said it's been a difficult time for residents, some of whom have been stigmatized.

"When I showed up at property today, I was told that one of the perimeter apartments, not even near the family's apartment was, had rocks thrown at it last night. There was three men that had been told when they showed up for work this morning that they couldn't work at their place of employment, because they lived in this apartment complex," she said.

NBC 5 News

Friday, a hazardous-materials team worked through the day to decontaminate the home. The team was to collect bed sheets, towels and a mattress used by the infected man before he was hospitalized, as well as a suitcase and other personal items belonging to Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, officials said.

They planned to place the items in industrial barrels and take them to a storage facility, according to Dallas County Fire Marshal Robert De Los Santos.

Once the proper permits are issued, the materials were to be hauled away for permanent disposal, probably by incineration at a landfill.

Members of the Cleaning Guys of Fort Worth pulled into the Dallas apartment complex Friday with a 36-foot trailer hauling safety equipment, respirators and decontamination materials.

When the job is complete, even the crew's protective suits were to be burned, said Tamara Smith, the company's office manager.

Dr. Seema Yasmin, The Dallas Morning News Medical Expert, answers questions about Ebola contamination.

The family living in the apartment has been confined to their home under armed guard while public-health officials monitor them — part of an intense effort to contain the deadly disease before it can get a foothold in the United States.

Louise Troh, originally from Liberia, shares the apartment with her 13-year-old son and two nephews.

Judge Clay Jenkins, Dallas County's top administrative official, said 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. He said officials are working to make sure the family is comfortable and to improve their accommodations.

"I am concerned for this family," he said. "I want to see this family treated the way I would want to see my own family treated."

Jenkins personally drove the family to their new home that he and Rawlings had arranged in a gated community.

"If there were any risk, I would not expose myself or my family to that risk," Jenkins said. "But there is no risk. These people are asymtomatic."

The residence where they will stay had been offered only a short time earlier. Until then, a search for shelter had come up short. The city had been refused by hotels, apartments and other providers.

"No one wants this family," said Sana Sayed, a Dallas city spokeswoman.

The virus that causes Ebola is not airborne and can only be spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids — blood, sweat, vomit, feces, urine, saliva or semen — of an infected person who is showing symptoms. Those fluids must also have an entry point.

For example, people might get infected by handling soiled clothing or bed sheets and then touching their mouth, or if they are not wearing gloves while doing those tasks and have a cut on their hand.

Duncan arrived in Dallas on Sept. 20 and fell ill a few days later. After an initial visit to the emergency room at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, he was sent home, even though he told a nurse he had been in West Africa.

He returned to the hospital two days later, on Sunday, and has been kept in isolation ever since. Friday he was listed in serious but stable condition.

NBC 5's Ray Villeda and Ken Kalthoff contributed to this story.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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