Washington — A Liberian man who was the first person diagnosed with Ebola outside of West Africa died in a Texas hospital Wednesday, as Washington stepped up airport screening against the deadly virus.
Thomas Eric Duncan died in a Dallas hospital 10 days after he was admitted and despite receiving an experimental drug to fight off the illness, which causes vomiting, diarrhea and often fatal bleeding.
“Mr. Duncan succumbed to an insidious disease, Ebola. He fought courageously in this battle,” said a statement from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.
Duncan is believed to have been infected with Ebola before he left Liberia and boarded a plane to visit family in Texas.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said there was “zero risk” that he had infected any fellow travelers because he was not symptomatic until days after the flight.
Duncan’s case however raised global fears, leading to a spike of suspected Ebola cases and forcing governments to consider stronger methods of keeping the virus at bay.
The world’s largest outbreak of Ebola has killed more than 3,400 people in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal since the beginning of the year.
Hours after Duncan died, the White House announced that stricter airport screenings would be implemented at five major U.S. airports.
The measures will include sending extra CDC staff to select airports and taking the temperatures of people arriving from Ebola-hit nations.
The “vast majority of people” coming from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone — the three countries hit hardest by the epidemic — will be screened, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
The airports implementing the measures are John F. Kennedy International in New York, Washington Dulles International, Chicago O’Hare International, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International and Newark Liberty International in New Jersey.
– Spanish fears mount –
In Spain, five people were isolated and dozens more monitored after a nurse in Madrid apparently caught Ebola while treating two elderly missionaries who died of the disease.
The nurse, Teresa Romero, is the first person to contract Ebola outside West Africa.
One of the doctors treating her said she may have caught the deadly virus after touching her face with an infected glove.
“It seems like it was the gloves. The gloves touched the face,” doctor German Ramirez told reporters outside the hospital.
Ebola is transmitted by close contact with the bodily fluids of a person who is showing symptoms of infection such as fever, aches, vomiting and diarrhea, or who has recently died of the infection, experts say.
As Spain scrambled to identify people who came into contact with Romero, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called for calm and promised “transparency” over the scare, which has sparked fierce criticism of Spanish safeguards.
The World Health Organization also moved to calm fears of wider contagion in Europe.
Regional director, Zsuzsanna Jakab, said sporadic cases in Europe were “unavoidable” but the risk of a full outbreak were “extremely low.”
– U.S. urges broader response –
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said more countries must step up the fight against Ebola.
“The fact is more countries can and must step up,” Kerry told reporters after talks with his British counterpart Philip Hammond, warning there were “still not enough countries to make the difference.”
Kerry showed a series of slides showing efforts by individual nations, and highlighting how small countries had in some ways done more per capita than their larger counterparts.
“I’m here this morning to make an urgent plea to countries in the world to step up even further. While we are making progress, we are not where we can say that we need to be,” he said.
Britain unveiled plans to send 750 military personnel as well as a medical ship and three helicopters to Sierra Leone.
“If we get ahead of it, if we rise to the challenge, we can contain it and beat it. We know how to do this,” Hammond said.
MCT Photo/Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram
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