A Dallas woman called 911 Sunday morning as the man she called “daddy,” Thomas Duncan, lay shivering and feverish inside the Ivy Apartments, a week after the man arrived in the U.S. from Liberia.
As Youngor Jallah tried to nurse the man she considers her stepfather back to health, she told the Washington Post, she realized the situation may be more dire than just a cold or the flu.
“I’ve been seeing Ebola on TV, how it starts, with muscle pain, red eyes. When I see his eye, it is all red, and I think maybe this time it is Ebola virus and I should be careful,” Jallah, 35, told the Washington Post at her nearby apartment, where she and her family have been in isolation.
The harrowing details show the moments when the lethal virus was first found to be on American shores. The 42-year-old Duncan’s test for the disease came back positive, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledged on Tuesday that Ebola had spread from West Africa to the United States.
“My daddy is going to the bathroom constantly,” Jallah told a dispatcher Sunday as Duncan spiraled into sickness, the Washington Post reported.
But Duncan had been ill well before then, trying to get medical attention at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital for his fever as far back ago as last Thursday when he was sent home with antibiotics.
The hospital asked Duncan if he’d been been in contact with anyone sick, and he said no, the facility said in a statement. Duncan did tell a nurse he’d been in Liberia, his home country, but a flaw in the electronic health records systems did not transfer that information to the treating doctor, according to the statement obtained by the Associated Press.
At the time, Duncan had a 100-degree temperature, a headache, abdominal pain and decreased urination, the hospital said, but not other common Ebola symptoms like diarrhea or vomiting.
By Sunday, the symptoms had worsened to the point that Jallah, the daughter of Duncan’s girlfriend, Louise Troh, decided to call 911 for ambulance, despite the sick man’s resistance.
When paramedics arrived, Jallah demanded the medical workers put on masks and gloves before they entered the apartment. She didn’t say Ebola, the word clearly on her mind.
“He just come from Liberia,” she explained the paramedics, according to the Post. “For safety, don’t touch anything. Viruses.”
Jallah, her father, Joe Joe Jallah, and two cousins all hopped in a minivan and headed to the hospital. She brought a blanket she’d bought at Walmart that morning to try and warm Duncan.
Once inside the hospital emergency room, she lay the blanket, likely covered with bodily fluids of a man infected with Ebola, on a seat next to her. For hours, the family waited for word on the sick man until a nurse said he’d been moved to the first floor and placed in isolation, Youngor Jallah told the Washington Post.
Wilmot Chayee/AP Thomas Duncan, 42, right, has been in isolation since Sunday and has been diagnosed with Ebola. Nathan Hunsinger/AP A pedestrian wears a surgical mask as he crosses the street in front of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Thursday morning, Oct. 2, 2014, in Dallas, where Thomas Eric Duncan, the Ebola patient who traveled from Liberia to Dallas last week, is being treated. LARRY W. SMITH/EPA People from the Texas Food Bank and from the Red Cross deliver food outside the door of the apartment where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan was staying in Dallas. MIKE STONE/REUTERS A Red Cross worker delivers bedding materials to an apartment unit at The Ivy Apartments where a man diagnosed with the Ebola virus was staying in Dallas. Tom Pennington/Getty Images Volunteers from the Red Cross deliver blankets and other supplies to a unit at the Ivy Apartments, where the confirmed Ebola virus patient was staying. MIKE STONE/REUTERS A man and young girl walk past The Ivy Apartments in Dallas. MIKE STONE/REUTERS A security guard is posted outside the apartment as a crush of reporters has descended outside the home of the family that has been quarantined.
When she got home, the cousins swept the floor while Jallah put the possibly infected blanket on the bed Duncan slept in, pour liquid bleach on the furniture and sprayed disinfectant, the newspaper reported.
They later bought another mattress and new blankets so Troh could avoid sleeping on the infected bed.
Troh, her son Timothy Wayne, 13, a relative named Oliver Smallwood and a friend named Jeffrey Cole, have all four now been quarantined inside the apartment.
The family is “stressed” by cabin fever and fear of the deadly disease, Troh, a native of Liberia, told the Associated Press. She wants authorities to clean the apartment, where infected sheets and blankets have now been placed in bags.
“No one this this will happen,” she said. “What wants to be locked up?”
Security guards and police have been posted outside the 300-unit apartment complex, where dozens of reporters have camped out for a glimpse of the confined relatives. Texas health authorities have ordered all four to remain in isolation until Oct. 19, and local food banks and the Red Cross have made drop-offs of food and other supplies.
But attempts to sanitize the infect apartment have been stymied by red tape. A hazardous material cleaning company hired to clean the living quarters was turned away Thursday night after the state’s Department of Transportation demanded certain permits the company did not have, according to the AP.
Jallah, her partner, Aaron Yah, and four children have also been ordered quarantined at their apartment, near Troh’s, according to the Post.
The kids, ages 2 to 11, spent Saturday night with Troh and Duncan, hours before the man went to the hospital and was diagnosed with Ebola.
No one has shown any Ebola symptoms, but health officials are taking each person’s temperature twice a day and doing other monitoring until Oct. 19. They are among the 12 to 18 people who had close contact with Duncan, and a total of some 100 people officials are monitoring for signs of the diease.