Thomas Duncan, the Liberian man who was the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, died in a Texas hospital Wednesday. Duncan, 42, was given the experimental Ebola drug brincidofovir, but his family said he was doing poorly and the hospital had downgraded his condition from serious to critical. To prevent the spread of the virus, which is most prevalent at death, no autopsy was performed.
When the family visited Tuesday with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, they declined to view Duncan via video link because the last time had been too upsetting. “What we saw was very painful. It didn’t look good,” said Duncan’s nephew Josephus Weeks.
Moreover, a person who claimed to have had contact with the deceased Ebola patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, was hospitalized in the U.S. city of Dallas Wednesday after displaying signs and symptoms of Ebola, health officials said.
“It is with profound sadness and heartfelt disappointment that we must inform you of the death of Thomas Eric Duncan this morning at 7:51 a.m. [local time]. Mr. Duncan succumbed to an insidious disease, Ebola. He fought courageously in this battle. 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. We have offered the family our support and condolences at this difficult time,” a statement from the company that runs Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where Duncan was in isolation, read.
Duncan arrived in Dallas on Sept. 20 and became ill within days. Days after Duncan was put in isolation, health officials said they were tracing as many as 100 people who had either direct or secondary contact with Duncan for monitoring. They subsequently narrowed the list to about 50, with only about 10 people said to have had close contact and be at the greatest risk for the disease.
After his death, Duncan’s family was able to view his body but was denied traditional West African funeral rituals, which involve family members handling the corpse. The family agreed with health officials’ recommendation for cremation. “When someone dies, there are large quantities of virus,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden.
Cremation kills the virus, so Duncan’s ashes can be returned to the family, who will not have to wear any protection.
The world’s largest outbreak of Ebola has killed 3,865 people out of 8,033 infected so far this year, mainly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to the WHO’s latest count.