The first person diagnosed with Ebola on U.S. soil died on Oct. 8. Thomas Eric Duncan, 42, died at 7:51 a.m. CDT, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital reported.
Duncan contracted the virus in Monrovia, Liberia, where he lived, days before flying to Dallas and developing signs of the disease. About 48 people he had contact with during his brief fatal illness in Dallas are being closely monitored, some under quarantine, according to news reports.
A second patient who contracted the virus in Liberia, U.S. journalist Ashoka Mukpo, has been receiving treatment since Oct. 6 at Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha as the virus continues to spread beyond West Africa where the current epidemic originated.
“It is with profound sadness and heartfelt disappointment that we must inform you of the death of Thomas Eric Duncan this morning at 7:51 a.m.,” Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said in a press release on its website. “Mr. Duncan succumbed to an insidious disease, Ebola. He fought courageously in this battle.
“Our professionals, the doctors and nurses in the unit, as well as the entire Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas community, are also grieving his passing,” the hospital said. “We have offered the family our support and condolences at this difficult time.”
Baptists in the U.S. and West Africa have launched initiatives to help deter the spread of the virus and minister to those in need.
Southern Baptists are responding through an education campaign in Togo, West Africa, ahead of any reported cases there, according to Baptist Global Response (BGR), a Southern Baptist-related relief organization.
The Baptist Convention of Togo intends to distribute 15,000 Ebola brochures utilizing local Baptist associations and pastors to get the information to church members. Outreach will include televised public service announcements nationwide, and local evangelists will distribute pamphlets to outlying villages, BGR told Baptist Press.
Baptists in Texas are preparing to send food and medical supplies to Liberia and Sierra Leone, two countries hit hardest by the epidemic. Texas Baptist Disaster Recovery is sending two 40-foot containers filled with a half-million prepackaged meals of rice and soy, the Baptist General Convention of Texas reported. Texas Baptists have the support of a $20,000 grant from the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering and food supplies donated by Convoy of Hope in Springfield, Mo.
The Baptist ministry Restore Hope, meanwhile, has received $15,000 from the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering to send supplies to Sierra Leone. The grant will provide food supplies to the Restore Hope center, Agape Academy and Mile 91 Baptist Church, all in Sierra Leone, where Restore Hope has 25 missionary personnel, Texas Baptists reported.
Little has been reported about Duncan’s life in Liberia, other than reports that he likely contracted the virus while helping a pregnant neighbor who was sick and vomiting. Liberian government officials had planned to prosecute him for traveling to the U.S. without disclosing on travel documents his contact with an Ebola patient, but some news reports question whether Duncan knew the cause of the woman’s illness.
Duncan was visiting a friend, son and other relatives in Dallas, according to news reports. At least five people who shared an apartment with him during his visit have been quarantined.
Duncan had been in isolation at the hospital since Sept. 28 and had been receiving the experimental antiviral drug brincidofovir, which received emergency approval from the FDA for Duncan’s treatment. Mukpo is receiving the same drug, along with blood donated by Kent Brantly, a medical missionary who recovered from Ebola.
Brantly had received another experimental treatment which is currently unavailable, its limited supply depleted, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Brantly and Mukpo are among five Americans diagnosed with Ebola in Africa who received treatment in the U.S.A World Health Organization health worker arrived Sept. 9 in Atlanta for treatment and two others, Nancy Writebol and Rick Sacra have made full recoveries. The WHO worker’s condition has not been updated.
A Baptist woman living in Nashville has lost six family members to Ebola in Liberia, she told Baptist Press Oct. 2. Juanita Logan, a 55-year-old member of First Baptist Church in Nashville, emigrated to the U.S. from Liberia in 1993.
“It’s a bad, ugly virus,” Logan has said.
The virus has killed more than 3,400 in West Africa, according to the CDC, and if unabated, could infect up to 1.4 million people by January 2015.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Diana Chandler, general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press.)