First Ebola case in US has NC ties
Posted October 2, 2014 5:39 p.m. EDT
Updated October 2, 2014 9:20 p.m. EDT
Kannapolis, N.C. — The Liberian man being treated for Ebola at a Texas hospital has family living in North Carolina that says the medical crisis has been an emotional struggle for them.
Joe Weeks, of Kannapolis, is the nephew of Thomas Eric Duncan, who tested positive for the virus Tuesday – five days after Duncan went to the emergency room at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas for abdominal pains and a fever.
Weeks said Thursday that he and the family, including Duncan's mother and sister, have not been able to sleep.
"Everybody is under a lot of stress," he told reporters outside his home. "No one wishes this on anybody, but unfortunately, this is what we have."
Weeks said Duncan arrived in Dallas Sept. 20 for his son's college graduation and began having symptoms four days later.
The next day, on Sept. 25, he went to the hospital and, despite telling a nurse he had traveled from Africa, was released.
Weeks – who says he was raised with Duncan in Liberia and considers him his brother – says he then called the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Duncan returned to the hospital Sept. 28 and was isolated. He tested positive for Ebola Sept. 30.
After many calls, Weeks says, he now believes his uncle is getting the best medical care possible.
Weeks says Duncan's spirits are low but that the family, who hopes to travel to Dallas soon, is trying to give him as much support as possible over the phone, sometimes twice a day.
"When I talk to him, his spirits are down, but as the conversation progresses, it goes up because I'm his strength," Weeks said.
The situation has also been difficult for the family, he says, because people living in the Kannapolis neighborhood fear that Weeks' house has somehow been contaminated with the virus that causes Ebola.
Weeks says that, although they keep in touch over the phone, he hasn't seen his uncle in 20 years, and Duncan has never been to Kannapolis.
As for Duncan's case, Texas health officials said Thursday that they have expanded their efforts to contain the Ebola virus, reaching out to as many as 100 people who may have had direct contact with Duncan or someone close to him.
Four people with whom Duncan was staying in Dallas have also been quarantined as a precaution.
None of the people is showing symptoms, but public-health officials have educated them about Ebola and told them to notify medical workers if they begin to feel ill
The virus that causes Ebola is not airborne and can be spread only through close contact with someone who has symptoms. People have to come into direct contact with the patient's bodily fluids — blood, sweat, vomit, feces, urine, saliva or semen — and those fluids must have an entry point.
Weeks says that, so far, Duncan's case appears to be isolated, and he prays it stays that way.
"Ebola is a very dangerous and vicious virus, so we want to go ahead and get rid of this disease and try to hope that nobody else gets infected," he said.