With Dallas on high alert for signs of whether the Ebola virus might be spreading beyond Thomas Eric Duncan, an inescapable question has emerged: Why hasn’t Duncan, a Liberian man, been given the ZMapp miracle drug?
The drug was used to successfully treat three white Americans who contracted Ebola while working in West Africa — Dr. Kent Brantly, Dr. Rick Sacra and aid worker Nancy Writebol.
But with Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., in critical condition inside Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, there is no plan to give him the drug.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden told reporters that the doctors treating Duncan fear that the experimental medication may worsen his condition — so instead he’s just receiving supportive care.
But Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health said Sunday on Face the Nation that the supplies of ZMapp are depleted, with none available to treat Duncan. Fauci said the drug won’t be available for six to eight weeks.
It was odd that these two major health officials were peddling different stories to the media about the drug.
Duncan’s family also doesn’t understand why he hasn’t received the experimental drug.
“I don’t understand why he is not getting the ZMapp,” Joe Weeks, Duncan’s nephew who lives with Duncan’s sister Mai, told ABC News.
Duncan first arrived a week and a half ago late on a Thursday night at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital because he didn’t feel well. Apparently, a nurse at the hospital asked about travel as part of normal procedure. When he told her he had recently returned from West Africa, that triggered no alarms in her head. He was sent home with antibiotics.
“Regretfully, that information was not fully communicated throughout the full teams. As a result, the full import of that information wasn’t factored into the full decision-making,” Texas hospital official Mark Lester said.
The New York Times reported that neighbors saw him vomiting on the ground outside the apartment complex two days later as he was being hustled into an ambulance.
“His whole family was screaming. He got outside and he was throwing up all over the place,” resident Mesud Osmanovic, 21, said Wednesday, according to the Times.
Weeks told the Today show that he actually called the CDC himself because he did not feel hospital officials in Dallas were acting with enough urgency.
“I called CDC to get some actions taken because I was concerned for his life and he was not getting the appropriate care,” Weeks said on television. “And I feared that other people might get infected if he was not taken care of.”
Duncan, a former chauffeur from Liberia, is now in an isolation unit at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital while health officials monitor about 50 people who may have had contact with Duncan, including nine believed to be at “high risk” for exposure.
Duncan’s family has been placed in quarantine and the apartment where they lived has been sanitized by cleanup crews — as much of Dallas trembles from fear.