As NBC freelancer Ashoka Mukpo arrived in the U.S. this morning to undergo treatment for the Ebola virus, Thomas E. Duncan from Dallas may face criminal charges for lying about his contact with the virus.
According to The Star-Telegram, Mukpo arrived in Nebraska this morning and is prepared to receive treatment right away. Mukpo was exposed to the disease while on assignment in Liberia and is expected to move from the Nebraska Medical Center’s specialized isolation unit to Omaha by the end of the week.
Doctors at the isolation unit — the largest of four nationwide — will evaluate Mukpo before determining how to treat him. They said they will apply the lessons learned while treating American aid worker Rick Sacra in September. Sacra was successfully treated in the Nebraska unit and was allowed to return to his home in Massachusetts after three weeks, on Sept. 25.
Sacra received an experimental Tekmira Pharmaceuticals drug called TKM-Ebola, as well as two blood transfusions from another American aid worker who recovered from Ebola at an Atlanta hospital. The transfusions are believed to help a patient fight off the virus because the survivor’s blood carries antibodies for the disease. Sacra also received supportive care, including IV fluids and aggressive electrolyte management.
Mukpo is the fifth American diagnosed with the disease that has killed over 3,000 people in West Africa. Dr. Phil Smith, head of the Nebraska Hospital’s biocontainment unit, says they’re prepared to treat Musko and fight the disease.
“We are ready, willing and able to care for this patient,” Smith said. “We consider it our duty to give these American citizens the best possible care we can.”
Mukpo’s father, Dr. Mitchell Levy, told NBC Sunday that his son was “counting the minutes” until he could leave Liberia but that he was not feeling that ill Sunday. Levy said the family was travelling from Rhode Island to Nebraska.
Meanwhile in Dallas, more details are starting to unravel about Duncan and the severity of his condition. According to The New York Times, Duncan’s condition has been reduced from serious to critical.
The Ebola patient in a hospital is “fighting for his life,” but he remains the only confirmed victim of the disease in the United States, and public health officials remain confident about their ability to contain the disease, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sunday.
While expressing such confidence about the American effort, the director, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, said on the CNN program “State of the Union” that in Africa, “the virus is spreading so fast that it’s hard to keep up.”
Dr. Frieden said that the condition of the patient in Dallas, a Liberian man named Thomas E. Duncan, was “quite critical,” having been changed on Saturday from serious. “We understand that his situation has taken a turn for the worse,” he said at a news conference in Atlanta Sunday afternoon.
Duncan, who is from Liberia and arrived to the United States about two weeks ago, was in contact with a woman who had the disease. Upon entering the country, Duncan allegedly lied about his possible exposure to the virus, which has sparked the possibility of criminal charges.
Prosecutors here are considering whether to bring charges against Mr. Duncan following reports that he had contact with a woman who ended up dying of Ebola in Liberia and later lied about that contact before boarding a plane to the United States.
“We are actively having discussions as to whether or not we need to look into this as it relates to a criminal matter,” Dallas County’s district attorney, Craig Watkins, said on “Lone Star Politics” on NBC 5 on Sunday. “We’re working with all the different agencies to get to the bottom of it.” His spokeswoman said prosecutors had previously filed aggravated assault charges against people who were H.I.V. positive and knowingly had unprotected sex with others; and it was possible the same charge may apply in Mr. Duncan’s case.
The family of Marthalene Williams, 19, says Duncan helped take her to the hospital in Liberia before she died of the virus on September 15.
Duncan’s girlfriend Louise Troh, one of her children, and two young men were removed from their apartment, where Duncan was staying. As of now, Troh and the others show no signs of the virus.