U.S. Ebola case: Patient’s partner speaks out, family quarantined

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Thomas Eric Duncan.

The partner of Ebola patient Thomas Duncan is quarantined in her Dallas apartment where Duncan became sick with the virus after his trip to Liberia, the woman told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

The woman, who asked to be identified only by her first name, Louise, is quarantined with one of her children under 13 and two nephews in their 20s because they were in apartment when Duncan became ill, Cooper said Thursday.

Duncan, a 42-year-old Liberian citizen, is in serious condition in a Dallas hospital, a spokeswoman said Thursday.

But Louise remains in her apartment, and she’s worried, not knowing what to do and waiting on federal health officials, Cooper said. She and her family will be quarantined for 21 days, and she’s frequently taking her family members’ temperatures as well as her own.

“She doesn’t know how she’s going to get food into the apartment. She was told she said maybe the Red Cross would come by. She’s still waiting for that,” Cooper said.

“Some health officials brought sandwiches last night, but she hasn’t had anything today,” Cooper said. “She’s certainly kind of at loose ends and is obviously extremely worried.”

Louise sometimes refers to Duncan as her husband and sometimes as the father of at least one of her children, Cooper said. “They’re not legally married, but they clearly have some sort of relationship,” Cooper added.

Cooper’s interview with Louise will air Thursday evening on CNN’s “AC360˚.”

Sheets and towels used by Duncan still in apartment

Later Thursday, officials were delivering food to Louise and her three family members, who are being confined under a quarantine order, said Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The apartment is being monitored with local law enforcement, Lakey said.

Despite the close contact, Louise “does not feel that she came into any contact with any (bodily) fluids” from Duncan, Cooper said.

“She says he didn’t vomit on her. She wasn’t cleaning up after him. She said he was very much sort of prideful, would take care of himself, go into the bathroom when he had diarrhea,” Cooper said.

Louise and her family are in isolation with sheets and towels used by the Ebola-stricken Duncan, Cooper said. Louise did use bleach to clean her apartment, “but it’s not clear to me how systematic the cleaning was,” he said.

The sheets Duncan used are still on the bed, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hasn’t taken away those materials, Cooper said.

Questions about response

CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta said the continuing presence of the sheets, on which Duncan may have transmitted the virus through sweating, are disturbing.

“With the sheets still being on the bed, that obviously is a concern,” Gupta said. “We’ve talked about the fact that this virus can live outside the body, can live on surfaces. It’s unlikely for it to be transmitted to someone else that way.

“But why take a chance?” Gupta added.

In the wake of Louise’s revelations about Duncan’s sheets and towels, a medical waste contractor was on its way Thursday to her apartment, a CDC official said Thursday.

“A medical waste contractor is on its way to get them,” the official said. He did not explain why the contractor is on its way only now, as Duncan left the house many days ago.

Wilfred Smallwood, the half-brother of Duncan, told CNN that his 21-year-old son is among those quarantined in Louise’s apartment.

Smallwood said he became disturbed when told of Louise’s accounts about the his brother’s sweat-stained sheets in the apartment and the lack of food.

“I’m skeptical now” about the CDC response, Smallwood said. “That worries me now, yes.”

Lakey, the Texas health commissioner, also said a crew will be cleaning and sanitizing the apartment.

Nonetheless, Gupta expressed alarm about the belated visit by the CDC waste contractor to Louise’s apartment.

“It is hard to believe (the oversight) and there aren’t good explanations here,” Gupta said.

“As to why it already hadn’t happened…I would be curious,” Gupta said. “Is this a dropped ball? We don’t know.”

An Ebola expert, Dr. Alexander van Tulleken, also said the federal response to the first-ever Ebola cases on U.S. soil seemed troubling. “So far we don’t seem to reacting as well as we could,” he said.

About Louise and her family, van Tulleken added: “It doesn’t sound like they’re being looked after at the moment.”

Louise told Cooper that “she’s not clear what she’s supposed to do with this,” Cooper said about the sheets. “She seems to think she should wait for the CDC to tell her what to do.”

Louise has stored Duncan’s towels in a plastic bag, Cooper said.