More news about the Dallas Ebola patient — the first patient to be diagnosed with the deadly viral disease in the U.S. — emerged Wednesday, including that he “was throwing up all over the place” outside of the apartment complex where he was staying before he was transported to the hospital.
Some in the comment section of the Reuters report asked what many others are probably thinking: “So who cleaned up the vomit, and where are they now…?…..what system did the vomit pass into?” the commenter going by the username Robertla wrote.
Neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nor the Dallas County Department of Health and Human Services immediately responded to TheBlaze’s request for comment on these questions. It’s a particular concern because the virus is transmitted through contact with the bodily fluids of a sick person, including blood, urine, saliva, feces and vomit.
According to KTVT-TV, security and police have been on scene at The Ivy Apartments where the patient was staying. The news station noted that 20,000 people live in Five Points, the Dallas area where the apartment is located. The CDC also has said it is closely monitoring the health of family and friends who came into close contact with the sick man, who was identified by a family friend in Reuters’ report as Thomas Eric Duncan.
While this was initially less than 20 people, the New York Times reported Thursday that Dallas’ health department expanded the list of people who could have had contact with Duncan or secondary exposure, through a person who had direct contact with him, to up to 100 people. Health officials have identified and contacted these people, according to the Times.
“It’s a constant process of interviews and locating as many contacts as are out there,” Erikka Neroes, spokeswoman for the Dallas health department, told the Times. “We expect daily that there could be more people added.”
On Facebook, the health department said Duncan’s family has been ordered to stay home without receiving any visitors.
WFAA-TV on Thursday posted a photo taken from its chopper of crews cleaning the sidewalk outside the apartment. It is unclear what they were cleaning or if it was even related to the case.
— WFAA TV (@wfaachannel8) October 2, 2014
Duncan was initially sent home last Thursday by doctors at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital when it was not clearly communicated among staff that he had recently returned from Liberia, one of the West African countries most affected by the historic outbreak. He was transferred back to the hospital in an ambulance Sunday and has remained there in isolation after testing positive for the disease.
But even hospitals are still having to deal with the issue of what exactly to do with infectious bodily fluids while taking care of Ebola patients.
According to another report from Reuters, bodily fluids and items a patient has come into contact with must be sterilized or incinerated before being disposed of. Sean Kaufman, the president of an Atlanta biosafety firm, told Reuters this practice not only protects those handling the materials but helps ensure that they’re not used “for nefarious purposes.”
The issue is that some hospitals, possibly even Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, don’t always have the equipment to take these sterilization measures on the scale necessary.
Even Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, which was the first U.S. hospital to take in citizens infected with the virus earlier this year, had issues with waste disposal initially. Here’s more from Reuters:
When Emory University Hospital in Atlanta was preparing to care for two U.S. missionaries infected with Ebola in West Africa in its high-security biocontainment unit, their waste hauler, Stericycle, initially refused to handle it.
Bags of Ebola waste quickly began piling up until the hospital worked out the issues with the help of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cynthia Quarterman, head of the the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration, told Reuters it is “working on how we can clarify even further for hospitals, for the public, what the appropriate transportation should be.” More specific guidance for how to handle the infectious waste could come within a few days, according to the news agency.
This story has been updated to include more information.