Friday, October 3, 2014

America's First Ebola Infection: The Strange Case of Eric Duncan

Thomas Eric Duncan
The case of Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who has suddenly become world famous for being the first person diagnosed with the Ebola infection in the United States of America and sending the state of Texas and America as a whole into panic, leaves us with a lot more questions than answers. Did Eric Duncan know he was infected with the virus before he left the country?  Was his coming to America on the 19th September planned a long time ago or was his journey the act of a man so desperate to save his own life that he was willing to risk the lives of others in the process?

According to reports from Monrovia, Duncan who works for Safeway Cargo, the local agent of the American courier service Fedex, had been involved in helping to seek treatment for his pregnant landlord's daughter who had been very sick with symptoms of the dreaded Ebola infection. A report states that the 19 year old Nathaline Williams, who was 7 months pregnant, had suddenly become very ill with symptoms similar to those exhibited by Ebola patients. The parents of Nathaline had become very alarmed and sought the help of Duncan to help them take their daughter to the hospital.

Duncan, who is also a driver, was able to rent a taxi which he boarded together with the pregnant Nathaline and her parents to John F. Kennedy Hospital, ELWA Hospital and Benson Hospital. But as Liberian hospitals are currently flooded with hundreds of patients seeking help for Ebola symptoms, Nathaline was refused admission at all the three hospitals. They also took her to a local clinic called Fedai where she was also rejected. 

At this stage the taxi driver Jiminez Grugbaye got really scared, convinced they were dealing with a probable case of Ebola and told them he wasn't going further. They prevailed on him to drive them home. He did so and claimed that he later went home and thoroughly disinfected his taxi with chlorine for two days before taking it out again in traffic.


When Duncan, the pregnant lady and the parents arrived home, Nathaline was no longer able to walk. Duncan and family members had to carry her into the house, with Duncan holding her hand, while her father and a brother lifted her torso and feet, according to a neighbor who was present at the scene.

The pregnant woman Nathaline died on September 16th, three days before Duncan left Liberia on September 19, flying out of Roberts International Airport to join relatives in Dallas, Texas. Nathalie's Aunt and a brother are also reported to have died a few days after she passed away.

Duncan's boss at Safeway cargo in Monrovia, Liberia, Mr Henry Brunson, states that Duncan just abandoned his job sometime in early September and he did not see him or hear from him again, only to hear about him on the news. Brunson was however glad that Duncan was in USA as he had a better chance of survival there with Ebola than in Liberia where Ebola beds were filled to capacity throughout the country.

The authorities in Liberia do not however have the same opinion. According to Binyah Kesselly a Liberian government spokesperson, Duncan will be prosecuted for perjury if he ever goes back to the country as he had denied ever having been in contact with an Ebola patient in the last 21 days when he was asked so at the airport. On the streets of Monrovia however, many people consider Duncan a lucky man

It is clear that Duncan  knew he had contact with an Ebola patient who later died in the same house he lived in. The question is did he reveal that information when he first went to the hospital in Dallas or did he even say that to the family members, including children he was staying with in Dallas? Did he lie on the question at the airport out of fear of being denied the chance to travel or was he already feeling the symptoms and desperate to go abroad to seek treatment?

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