Ebola in US: Delays in sanitizing Dallas apartment where Liberian man stayed

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(CNN) — Four days after a Liberian man was diagnosed with Ebola in Dallas, the apartment where he stayed has not been sanitized, a cleaning crew contracted to do the job said. Four other people are still living there.

Thomas Eric Duncan became the first person diagnosed with Ebola on American soil when he was hospitalized days after arrival from Liberia.

His partner and her family are in isolation at the apartment, which still has the sheets, clothes and towels Duncan used.

Before leaving his homeland, Duncan answered no to questions on whether he was exposed to the deadly virus, said Binyah Kesselly of the Liberia Airport Authority.

Duncan had been helping Ebola patients, including caring for one at a residence outside the capital of Monrovia, Liberian community leader Tugbeh Chieh Tugbeh said.

Cleanup delayed

As concerns grow over how many people he may have exposed to the deadly virus, a plan to sanitize the apartment was delayed late Thursday.

Brad Smith of the Cleaning Guys, which was hired to sanitize the apartment, said his company does not have the proper permits to transport hazardous waste on Texas highways. The company specializes in hazmat and biohazard cleaning services.

Smith said authorities sent his crew away late Thursday before they entered the apartment and told them to come back with proper permits. It’s unclear how long that will take.

“The permit is being processed through DOT (the Department of Transportation) because it is a special permit,” Smith said.

“This is a unique situation. Once awarded, our hazmat teams will be allowed back inside to do their jobs.”

Duncan was visiting his son and his son’s mother in Dallas, said Wilfred Smallwood, his half-brother.

The woman, who asked to be identified only by her first name, Louise, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper she is quarantined with one of her children under age 13 and two nephews in their 20s.

Louise used bleach to clean her apartment, “but it’s not clear to me how systematic the cleaning was,” Cooper said.

They’ve been holed up in the apartment since Duncan became ill.

Dozens may have had contact with him

Health officials are reaching out to as many as 100 people who may have had contact with Duncan, a Texas Department of State Health Services spokeswoman said. They are being questioned because they may have crossed paths with the patient either.

The number of direct contacts who have been identified and are being monitored right now is “more than 12,” a federal official told CNN.

Monitoring means a public health worker visits the contacts twice a day to take temperatures and to ask if they are experiencing any symptoms.

Ebola doesn’t spread through airborne or waterborne methods. It spreads through contact with organs and bodily fluids such as blood, saliva, urine and other secretions of infected people.

Liberia looking into prosecuting him

Liberia Airport Authority officials said they may prosecute Duncan if he lied on his health screening questionnaire before leaving for the United States.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf told Canadian public broadcaster CBC that she would consult with lawyers to decide what to do with Duncan when he returns home.

“The fact that he knew (he was exposed to the virus) and he left the country is unpardonable, quite frankly,” Johnson Sirleaf said.

“With the U.S. doing so much to help us fight Ebola, and again one of our compatriots didn’t take due care, and so, he’s gone there and … put some Americans in a state of fear, and put them at some risk, and so I feel very saddened by that and very angry with him, to tell you the truth.”

Duncan hadn’t mentioned any exposure to the disease, Smallwood said, adding that he doesn’t believe he knew he had Ebola when he left Liberia.

Duncan was screened three times before he boarded his flight in Liberia bound for Brussels, said Kesselly, the Liberia Airport Authority board chairman. His temperature was a consistent 97.3 degrees Fahrenheit, said Thomas Frieden, chief of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

After his connection through Brussels, he flew to Washington, and then to Dallas.

Family quarantined

Duncan is in serious condition at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. So far, no one who had contact with him has shown any signs of Ebola, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said.

As more details of his ailment emerged, an American cameraman was diagnosed with Ebola in Monrovia, where Duncan was when he got infected.

Ashoka Mukpo, 33, a freelance cameraman for NBC News, will return to the United States for treatment aboard a private charter plane.

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