The Ebola patient in isolation at a Texas hospital has begun treatment with an experimental drug that was authorized by the federal government for certain patients, the hospital said.
Thomas Eric Duncan, who is being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas after being the first person diagnosed with Ebola within the United States, is listed in critical condition.
“He is now receiving an investigational medication, brincidofovir, for Ebola Virus Disease,” hospital spokeswoman Candace White said in a tweet Monday, later adding in a statement that he had been getting the drug since 2:14 p.m. on Saturday.
The announcement comes a day after Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said: “As far as we understand, experimental medicine is not being used.”
CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said that the CDC relies on the hospital to make announcements related to patient conditions and treatment. Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital did not immediately respond to calls for comment on the 48-hour gap between the administration of the drug and its Monday announcement.
The announcement that he is being treated with an experimental anti-viral medication called brincidofovir comes after the Food and Drug Administration authorized its use in certain experimental cases, according to the biopharmaceutical company Chimerix, which makes the drug. Chimerix, a Durham, North Carolina-based company, said its use was permitted through an Emergency Investigational New Drug Applications program by the FDA. The FDA would not comment about the use of drug on Duncan.
“Based on in-vitro data from work conducted by the CDC and the National Institutes of Health, suggesting brincidofovir’s activity against Ebola, we are hopeful that brincidofovir may offer a potential treatment for Ebola Virus Disease during this outbreak,” M. Michelle Berrey, the president and CEO of Chimerix, said in a statement.
Duncan may not be the only person to receive the experimental medication. The company reports that they are “working closely with the FDA to finalize a clinical trial protocol,” according to the release.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said that the second phase of the clean-up of the apartment where Duncan was staying was completed Monday. He said that all of his personal items have been destroyed and “a drum is being taken away” with other possibly infected items.
Judge Clay Jenkins visited the family Monday at the home where they are now staying in an undisclosed gated community to see if there was anything that needed to be addressed, the mayor said.
Texas Health Commissioner Dr. David Lakey said that this will be “an important week” for the relatives of Duncan because they are hitting the time frame when most infected individuals begin showing symptoms. He stressed that each of the relatives has their temperature checked twice daily and have not shown any symptoms yet.
In addition to the four isolated relatives, Dallas health officials are keeping track of up to 50 other people who could have come into contact with Duncan and “100 percent of the people we’re-evaluating, 100 percent they don’t have it,” Lakey said.
The Liberian man’s trip to the United States to plan a wedding with his longtime girlfriend turned into an Ebola-fueled nightmare after he became the first person diagnosed with the disease on U.S. soil — and remains in a fight for his life.
He had recently reconciled with Louise Troh when he upended his life in Monrovia, leaving his job without notice, and jumped on a plane to Dallas to join family in the Texas city, Troh’s pastor told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
It was Duncan’s first trip to the United States. He landed Sept. 20; eight days later, he was in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, a statistic now known as the first case of Ebola diagnosed on U.S. soil.
“She is managing the best she can under the most strenuous of circumstances,” George Mason, the senior pastor at Wilshire Baptist Church, told the newspaper. “She had hopes and dreams of great things happening with him coming.”
Duncan’s condition worsened over the weekend as the hospital announced he is now critically sick. And at least 10 people, including Troh and three family members, are considered at “high risk” for contracting the disease after having close contact with Duncan once he began showing symptoms of Ebola.
Troh, her son and two other relatives will remain isolated until Oct. 19 as health officials monitor them twice daily for signs of the disease. Other relatives, including Troh’s daughters, say they’ve been forced into self-imposed isolation and shunned by the Dallas Liberian community as news of Duncan’s diagnosis has garnered international attention, the Washington Post reported.
Duncan, 42, abruptly left his job in Monrovia when he came to the United States to plan a wedding with his longtime girlfriend, Louise Troh.
“This whole Ebola thing — this virus is tearing people apart,” Mawhen Jallah, 28, told the newspaper. “Since the whole thing occurred, nobody has come to visit.”
Duncan’s arrival stateside in September was months before he originally planned after he got early visa approval, according to the Post. He walked out of his job as a driver with SafeWay Cargo, a shipping company.
But good riddance to the former employee, the company’s owner, Henry Brunson, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
“He was very arrogant,” he said. “Every time I gave him instructions, he became confrontational. He didn’t like to follow the rules.”
Officials in Liberia say Duncan did not follow at least one important rule there before he left the country. Duncan will likely be prosecuted in the West African nation because he reportedly lied on a questionnaire asking him if he’d had contact with any Ebola victim.
Wilfred Smallwood says his half-brother, Thomas Duncan, is a good man who got sick trying to help others.
Just four days before he left Monrovia, Duncan helped take a badly ill, pregnant Ebola victim to several clinics and hospitals. They were turned away at each, and the woman later died.
Duncan did not have a fever when he departed Liberia on Sept. 19, but began showing symptoms of Ebola as early as Sept. 25. He was hospitalized three days later.
“He’s a good man,” Wilfred Smallwood, Duncan’s half-brother, told the Star-Telegram from Phoenix. “He attends church. He tried to save that woman’s life in Monrovia.”
Duncan has family in Arizona, Texas and North Carolina, but it’s relatives in Dallas who have been rejected by their community members. Some 50 people who had any sort of contact with Duncan are being evaluated daily by health officials trying to prevent a U.S. outbreak of the disease. But other community members are taking matters into their own hands, refusing to associate with relatives, even those cleared by health authorities. One neighbor pointed at the door of Duncan’s relative’s home and said, “That’s the Ebola family there,” according to the Washington Post.
Friends and relatives have been thrust into an unending media spotlight, even as they struggle with the personal tragedy of Duncan’s deteriorating condition.
“They made a plan for him to come to the states … and plan a wedding,” Mason told the Star-Telegram of Troh. “Every indication I have is that it was a long-standing plan and not related to his being infected.” The wedding is on hold as Duncan struggles to survive.
“They were going to talk to me about it,” the pastor George Mason told the newspaper, “but never got a chance to make those plans.”