DALLAS (Reuters) – More than 80 people had direct or indirect contact with the first person to be diagnosed with the deadly Ebola virus in the United States, health officials said Thursday, as four members of the patient’s family were quarantined as a precaution.
Dallas County officials said 12 to 18 people had direct contact with the Texas patient, and they in turn had contact with scores of others. All were being monitored and none had shown any symptoms.
A top health official urged U.S. hospitals to heed lessons from Dallas, where a hospital initially sent the ailing patient home, despite information that he had recently visited West Africa, potentially exposing more people to the virus.
Texas health officials told four “close” relatives of the patient not to entertain visitors and said they could be arrested if they leave their homes without permission through Oct. 19. The four did not exhibit symptoms, they said.
“We have tried and true protocols to protect the public and stop the spread of this disease,” said Dr. David Lakey, the Texas health commissioner. “This order gives us the ability to monitor the situation in the most meticulous way.”
“The order is in place until the incubation period has passed and the family is no longer at risk of having the disease,” Lakey said.