The Associated Press obtained a Sept. 19 form in which, before leaving on his journey to Dallas, Thomas Eric Duncan had replied “no” to a series of questions about his health and activities. Included in these questions were queries about whether Duncan had cared for an Ebola patient, or touched the body of anyone who had died in an area infected by Ebola.
On Thursday, four people—all of them members of a family with whom the U.S. Ebola patient was staying—were confined to their Texas home under armed guard.
The confinement order was made after, as Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said, the family was “noncompliant” with a request not to leave their apartment.
Texas State Health Commissioner David Lakey said that the confinement would help ensure that the relatives can be closely monitored, including checking them for fevers, over the next three weeks.
Lakey noted that officials hired a cleaning service for the apartment, as “the house conditions need to be improved.”
Officials said that the family will not be allowed to receive visitors; several days of food have been delivered to the apartment.
Jenkins said that the infected man’s belongings, including clothes and possibly bed sheets, are bagged inside the home so the family cannot come into contact with them until they are removed.
Texas health officials have reached out to about 80 people who may have had direct contact with Duncan or someone close to him. Erikka Neroes, spokeswoman for the Dallas County Health and Human Services agency, said that while none of the people have shown symptoms, they have been told to notify medical workers if they begin to feel ill.
Amongst these 80 people are 12 to 18 people who came in direct contact with the infected man, including three members of the ambulance crew that took Duncan to the hospital and a handful of schoolchildren.
Neroes noted that there “is a big spider web” of people involved.
The virus that causes Ebola is not airborne. It can only be spread through close contact with someone who has symptoms: a person must come into direct contact with the patient’s bodily fluids, and those fluids must have an entry point.