The first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan, died Wednesday morning at a Dallas hospital, a hospital spokesperson said.
“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 am,” hospital spokesman Wendell Watson said in an emailed statement.
Duncan fell ill after arriving in Texas from Liberia on Sept. 20 to visit with family, raising concerns the world’s worst Ebola outbreak to date could spread outside of the three-worst hit West African countries. Approximately 48 people whom Duncan came in contact with are being monitored.
Ebola has killed more than 3,400 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea since the outbreak started back in March, nearly half of all those infected, according to the World Health Organization. While several American patients have been flown to the United States from West Africa to receive treatment, Duncan was the first person to start showing symptoms of the disease on U.S. grounds.
A Spanish nurse who treated a priest who worked in the region was also infected by the deadly virus.
Duncan was able to fly to the United States from Liberia’s capital Monrovia, which is at the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak, because he did not have a fever when he was screened at the airport and filled out a questionnaire stating he hadn’t come into contact with anyone infected.
Liberian officials have since said he lied on the questionnaire and had been in contact with a pregnant woman who had died from the disease. Ebola can take up to three weeks to surface, at which point the disease becomes contagious. Ebola, which can cause fever, vomiting and diarrhea, spreads through contact with bodily fluids such as saliva or blood.
“The past week has been an enormous test of our health system, but for one family it has been far more personal. Today they lost a dear member of their family. They have our sincere condolences, and we are keeping them in our thoughts,” David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services said in a statement.