Family of dead Texas Ebola patient grieve in isolation

  • World
  • Friday, 10 Oct 2014

DALLAS (Reuters) - Thomas Eric Duncan died without his loved ones. Now the family of the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States is grieving alone, some in quarantine and most isolated by social stigma and fear of the virus.

Duncan, a Liberian national who was visiting his fiancée in Texas, died in an isolation ward of a Dallas hospital on Wednesday unable to be surrounded by the people dearest to him. He died 11 days after being admitted.

About 48 people who had direct or indirect contact with Duncan since he arrived in Texas on Sept. 20 are being monitored, but none have yet shown any symptoms, health officials say. Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said he was 45.

Duncan's fiancée, Louise Troh, is in mandatory quarantine at an undisclosed location within the city limits. Her only link to her family is daily phone calls. She has no TV or Internet access, her daughter Mawhen Jallah said.

For over a week, Jallah, 28, has missed work to stay home and care for her 2-year-old daughter Naya. The daycare provider the little girl usually attends refused to take her in because she is from "that family."

As she sat on a worn brown couch in her dimly lit apartment hours after hearing about Duncan’s death, Jallah sobbed while her daughter pranced around wearing a pink tutu.

"My God, help me understand what happened to Eric," she cried.

Troh’s other daughter, Youngor Jallah, and her kids had some contact with Duncan when he was symptomatic so they are under observation and a voluntary quarantine.

The focus has changed from praying for Duncan’s survival to counting the days until the 21-day incubation period is over and Troh is no longer in danger of being stricken with the deadly virus, Jallah said.

"It's very, very hard for her. It's going on almost two weeks now. We are not there to help her. It is so painful. We are African so when something happens to one person we always there for each other. Right now, there is nobody that can go to her. None of her children can see her and it is so frustrating."

Duncan's son with Troh, 19-year-old Karsiah Duncan, was hoping to rekindle their relationship after last seeing his father in Africa at age 3. Karsiah, who is a college student in San Angelo in west Texas, told reporters on the eve of Duncan’s death that he felt God was calling him home to visit Duncan.

He did not get the chance and is devastated, the family said.

(Editing by Jill Serjeant and Eric Walsh)

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