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US Ebola patient dies

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The first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States has died, a Dallas hospital announced Wednesday.

Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who contracted Ebola prior to visiting Texas last month, died at 7:51 a.m. He was 33.

"He fought courageously in this battle," Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said in a statement.

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Duncan's case has shaken the public since late September, when he became the first person to arrive in the U.S. with an undetected Ebola infection. No one had ever died of the virus in America until Wednesday.

The first U.S. case of Ebola also called in question the preparedness of the nation's healthcare system. The Dallas hospital had initially sent Duncan home with the diagnosis of a low-grade fever. He was brought back three days later in an ambulance.

 

Over the last week, state and federal health authorities have rushed to relay additional information about Ebola symptoms to hospital workers, many of whom said they felt unprepared to deal with the disease.

 

Duncan’s condition had continually worsened since he first diagnosed Ebola on Sept. 30. A hospital spokeswoman said Tuesday that his condition had become critical, though his liver function had improved since the weekend.

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CDC director Tom Frieden said earlier this week that Duncan was “fighting for his life.”

Duncan had been receiving an experimental drug called brincidofovir. He was first given the drug on Saturday, nearly a week after he was admitted. Other patients treated in the U.S. were immediately given experimental treatments, which prompted claims of bias from some members of Duncan’s family.

"We feel he didn't get the medicine and treatment for the disease because he's African and they don't consider him as important as the other three [Ebola patients]," Josephus Weeks, Duncan's nephew, said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

Five Americans have been treated or remain in treatment for Ebola in Texas, Nebraska and Georgia. None have died. One patient, an NBC cameraman, was brought to the U.S. this week and is receiving blood from another American who has recovered from the disease.

The Ebola epidemic has killed more than 3,000 people in West Africa since it began last December. The virus, which has no vaccine or cure, begins with flu-like symptoms and ends with massive internal hemorrhaging. It has a death rate of around 50 percent.

A total of 14 patients have been treated for Ebola outside of West Africa. Of those, only three, including Duncan, have died. Four remain under doctors' care.

In Dallas, four people remain under quarantine because of their contact with Duncan prior to his hospitalization. Because they have not shown symptoms within 10 days of contact with Duncan, it is unlikely they are infected. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that Duncan had 10 definite and 38 possible contacts in the U.S.

Each person continues to be monitored in case they develop symptoms that point to Ebola.

The hospital expressed "profound sadness and heartfelt disappointment" at Duncan's death. 

"Our professionals, the doctors and nurses in the unit, as well as the entire Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas community, are also grieving his passing," the statement said.

Dr. David Lakey, the Texas health commissioner, vowed that officials would "continue every effort to contain the spread of the virus and protect people from this threat.”

“The past week has been an enormous test of our health system, but for one family it has been far more personal. Today they lost a dear member of their family. They have our sincere condolences, and we are keeping them in our thoughts," Lakey said.

— This story was updated at 12:14 p.m.