DALLAS –– A hazardous materials team has arrived at the Dallas apartment where four contacts of American Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan are under quarantine.
The family members –– Duncan’s partner, who asked to be referred to only by her first name Louise, along with her son and two nephews in their 20s –– have been ordered to stay there until October 19. The sheets, clothes and towels Duncan used are in plastic bags in one of the apartment’s rooms, health officials say.
Ebola can live outside the body on those kinds of materials, says CNN’s Dr Sanjay Gupta. The length of time it remains active depends on the environment –– from hours to days –– but it is possible for someone to contract the disease from touching those materials.
So far, no one from the cleaning crew has been allowed inside the apartment, said Brad Smith of Cleaning Guys.
Smith said his company was ready to go, but a permit issue was stopping them from entering. Smith says a specialized permit is needed to transport this type of unprecedented hazardous waste on Texas highways. Cleaning Guys specializes in hazmat and biohazard cleaning services, but it does not transport the materials.
Hazmat teams still do not have permits to dispose of the soiled items taken from the apartment, said Dr David Lakey of the Texas Department of State Health Services. The items will be moved to a secure location in Dallas County until the appropriate permits are obtained, he said today.
Ebola can spread through contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids like blood, faeces or vomit. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention spokeswoman Abbigail Tumpey says the CDC considers materials contaminated with Ebola as regular medical waste, and as such, can be disposed of as medical waste. But she said the Department of Transportation considers Ebola to be a Category A agent, which means it’s illegal to transport.
“The CDC and the DOT regulations have been in conflict. It’s been an ongoing issue that we’ve been dealing with.”
A federal Department of Transportation official with knowledge of the situation told CNN that by the end of the day, a special permit would be issued for a waste management company to remove Ebola-contaminated material in certain areas around Dallas.
Duncan was in Dallas visiting his son and his son’s mother, said his half-brother Wilfred Smallwood. Duncan landed in Dallas on September 20 and started feeling sick several days later. He went to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on September 26 with a fever and abdominal pain, hospital officials say. He was sent home with antibiotics but returned in an ambulance two days later, when he was admitted and placed in isolation.
On September 30, a blood test confirmed Duncan had Ebola.
Duncan is in serious but stable condition, health officials say. They are monitoring 50 people in the area for possible Ebola symptoms, Lakey said today. These are people Duncan came in contact with while he was contagious. Monitoring means a public health worker visits the contacts twice a day to take temperatures and to ask if they are experiencing any symptoms. So far, none had, Lakey said.