Some school children were in contact with the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the U.S., Texas Gov. Rick Perry said at a press conference Wednesday.
The patient has been identified as Thomas Eric Duncan, a resident of Monrovia, Liberia. He is in his mid-forties, the New York Times reported. On Sept. 15, he had direct contact with a Liberian woman who had Ebola. Four days later, he left to travel to the United States.
Perry said the children exposed to the virus have been identified and are being monitored at home for symptoms of the deadly Ebola virus. He said their parents were extremely concerned, but asserted that Ebola cannot be transmitted before the symptoms appear.
The children are among 12 to 18 people, including the patient's family and EMS crews, and are being monitored for Ebola symptoms after coming into contact with the patient.
The governor was speaking to the press at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas where the patient was first diagnosed with Ebola on Sept. 28 and where he is being treated.
Duncan's sister said he had informed the hospital he was home from Liberia, but was sent home after being diagnosed with a low-grade viral fever.
After he was sent home, his illness worsened. By the time he was taken again to the hospital by ambulance, he was vomiting on the ground outside the apartment where his family lives, a neighbor told Reuters.
Duncan's sister recently went to Liberia to visit her brother.
"His sister came from the United States and he asked for a day off so that he could go meet her at the Mamba Point Hotel," one of Duncan's neighbor's said. "He quit a few weeks after that."
Then Duncan, who had been working as a driver at Safeway Cargo, the Liberian FedEx customs agency, quit, and went to the United States.
United Airlines released a statement on Wednesday saying that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told them Duncan flew on a United flight, but passengers were not at risk for infection:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has informed us that the patient said he flew part of his trip on United. However, without consent, we cannot divulge a traveler's identity. The director of the CDC has stated there is "zero risk of transmission" on any flight on which the patient flew because he was not symptomatic until several days after his trip and could not have been contagious on the dates he traveled. While the CDC states it is unnecessary for it or the airline to contact others who were on the patient's flights, United is providing information about the flights United believes the patient took, based on information provided by the CDC. We are ensuring our employees have this information and suggest that any customers who have concerns contact the experts at the CDC for further information.
Information on the Sept. 20 flights United believes the patient took is as follows:
Brussels to Washington Dulles, Flight 951 and Washington Dulles to Dallas-Fort Worth, Flight 822.
Texas health officials have said that Duncan's condition "serious but stable."
Perry said Texas was one of only 13 states certified by the CDC to do diagnostic Ebola testing. He said that the "case was serious" but that he had faith in the state's highly qualified health officials to deliver the best care for the patient and ensure the safety of the city and country.
Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, said the case is scary but chances of it spreading are very small. "This is not West Africa," he said. "This is a very sophisticated city and very sophisticated hospital. The dynamics are very different than in West Africa."
Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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