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NIH official: Ignoring Ebola patient’s travel history ‘not excusable’

A high-ranking National Institutes of Health (NIH) official said Thursday that it was inexcusable for medical officials to have ignored the travel history of a man who has since been diagnosed with the deadly Ebola virus. 

Thomas Eric Duncan, who is the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., was reportedly sent home from his first visit to the hospital without being properly diagnosed, despite telling medical personnel he had traveled from Liberia to the U.S. last month. 

Doctors initially prescribed Duncan antibiotics intended to address other types of health issues according to reports, although his symptoms were later properly identified.  

{mosads}Anthony Fauci, who is the director of the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview with MSNBC on Thursday that the hospital’s error was “not excusable.”

“It’s just an unfortunate misstep,” Fauci told the network. “Things like that happen. Unfortunately, to happen under as dramatic circumstances as this is the obvious reason why people are paying such attention to this. It should not have happened. It’s not excusable. But … it’s understandable in a busy emergency room how something like that can happen.” 

Lawmakers have also expressed concern about the fact that Duncan’s travel history was apparently ignored during his initial hospital visit in Texas. 

“It is troubling and, of course, we don’t know the details of the visit and with patient privacy protections. It’s not likely we’ll learn a lot,” Texas Rep. Michael Burgess (R) said during an interview with CNN earlier this week. 

“But, yes, it is concerning and certainly the takeaway for anyone who’s practicing ER medicine right now is, boy that travel history in a … patient is extremely important and don’t overlook it,” Burgess continued. 

Fauci said Thursday that he was confident medical professionals would pay more attention to patients’ recent travel histories as news of Duncan’s diagnosis has spread. 

“I think anywhere in the country, any physician or nurse or anyone in a clinic is not going to have this happen,” he said. “They’re going to be very well aware of the importance of doing a travel history and an importance of factoring that into your decision about how you handle the patient.”

Tags Ebola virus National Institute of Health Thomas Eric Duncan
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