Hooray! The ‘Texas 43’ is Ebola Free! (And good news from Nigeria)

There was a threshold event at midnight today Monday October 20, 2014. The first 43 Texans who were being held in quarantine as a result of being in some sort of contact with the deceased Thomas Eric Duncan have been released and allowed to reenter the public.

In a statement, Governor Rick Perry said this about the release:

“With guarded optimism we welcome the news that 43 Texans have been removed from active monitoring for Ebola. Continuous vigilance in confronting this threat and the cooperation of those affected is what has brought us to this point, and we look forward to the day when the remaining individuals can also be removed from active monitoring.”

In all, 48 people have been held for ‘observation’. One more person comes off the list later today (Monday) four healthcare workers will be coming off the list at a later date provided they test negative.

Also this day, The World Health Organization has declared that Nigeria is now free of Ebola virus transmission. The world body reports that it’s tracking of new infections in that nation has been zero for the past 42 days. This is a huge benchmark considering that at 21 million, the population of Lagos is larger than Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone combined. Lagos’ population is dense, fluid and considered perfiect for a pandemic level outbreak. But these Africans proved the world wrong.

In a statement the WHO wrote:

“This is a spectacular success story that shows that Ebola can be contained. The story of how Nigeria ended what many believed to be potentially the most explosive Ebola outbreak imaginable is worth telling in detail. Such a story can help the many other developing countries that are deeply worried by the prospect of an imported Ebola case and eager to improve their preparedness plans. Many wealthy countries, with outstanding health systems, may have something to learn as well.”

But as glossy as this news appears, back here in the United States, there is still some concern about how those newly re-entered into the public will be received. In an interview with The Guardian, Youngor Jallah, the daughter of Duncan’s fiancé talked about how neighbors shunned them during their weeks isolated in their apartment. When allowed to go outside after two weeks of forced isolation, trusted longtime friends ostracized them and actively encouraged people not to support them in fear that they would contract the disease. These things were happening, she says, although no one in the family showed signs of infection.

Family members of Duncan’s fiancé said they would make a fresh start somewhere else, but don’t have the money to move. They said they work from paycheck to paycheck and while in quarantine, they did not make any money.

Now that the family has been released from quarantine, they are taking solace in the support given by members of the local clergy and political leaders. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings convened a conference call on Friday in advance of the lifting of the quarantine with dozens of clergy members. Rawlings asked the religious leaders to impress upon  their congregations to show compassion and not let concerns about Ebola to turn to fear.

A burden has been lifted with the prospect of having contracted Ebola hanging over their heads. The quarantine method has been proven a valid and effective tool to prevent the spread of this deadly virus. The World Health Organization noted, unlike the situation in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, in Nigeria, all identified contacts were physically monitored on a daily basis for 21 days. The few contacts who attempted to escape the monitoring system were all diligently tracked, using special intervention teams, and returned to medical observation to complete the requisite monitoring period of 21 days. This is how Nigeria got its infection rate down to zero. One would think, we can do that too, over here.

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