Search for people at risk for Ebola infection didn’t start for two days

Health officials on Friday acknowledged that there was a more than a 48-hour gap in the search for people who had been in contact with the Dallas Ebola patient.

The patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, was admitted Sunday morning under the suspicion that he had Ebola. 

But it was not until Tuesday morning that health officials in Austin and at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) received a blood sample for a diagnostic test. 

The delay means that tracing Duncan’s contacts —  the most important step in containing an Ebola outbreak — did not start until Tuesday night.

{mosads}Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital has already been criticized for failing to admit Duncan last Friday, when he first sought care for Ebola-like symptoms and told at least one clinician he had recently traveled in Liberia. 

Texas health officials on Friday also said the apartment where Duncan stayed and where four people are being quarantined has not yet been fully sterilized.

Soiled items that could be carrying the virus, such as bedsheets and towels, have not been removed due to what one official described as “permitting issues.” 

Judge Clay Jenkins, a local leader involved in the Ebola response, said he had apologized to the family for the delay. 

“We’re in unchartered territory,” Jenkins said on a call with reporters, “but we have a great partnership with state and federal partners that we’re working with.”

The CDC also provided new figures for the number of people potentially exposed to the disease.

Health officials said Friday that 50 people are being monitored on a daily basis, out of the 100 people initially questioned about their contact with Duncan.

Ten individuals are considered at a higher risk for developing the disease, including the four people quarantined in their home in Dallas.

“We have a low bar for deciding to follow patients,” said Beth Bell, director of the CDC’s national center. Bell, as well as Texas officials, declined to provide details about how many of those individuals were hospital workers or other members of the community.

— Sarah Ferris contributed.

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