Dallas officials, including Mayor Mike Rawlings and Texas Health Commissioner Dr. David Lakey, held a news conference Monday to discuss the response to the Ebola investigation and containment regarding patient Thomas Eric Duncan — and said that local anxiety could be more damaging than the virus itself.
"The concern is the stress of this and the fear of this could be more damaging to the community than the virus itself," said Lakey. "This isn’t West Africa. This is a very modern city. We don’t have the level poverty that they have in West Africa, that is conducive to the spread of the disease."
He said he was so confident that people who aren't showing signs of illness that he shook hands with one man who was being monitored. Local officials have complained that certain service providers, like tutors, have been reluctant to come into the neighborhood where Duncan was staying because of Ebola fears.
Lakey also said that all of the 48 people being monitored as contacts with Duncan before he was admitted to the hospital were showing no signs of fever or illness.
Hospital officials earlier on Monday said Duncan remains in critical but stable condition. He is now receiving an investigational medication, brincidofovir, they said.
Duncan, the Liberian national who was the first person to be diagnosed with the Ebola virus while in the United States, traveled to Dallas to marry his longtime girlfriend and the mother of his 19-year-old son, the pastor of the woman's church told NBC News on Saturday.
Duncan arrived in Dallas on Sept. 20 via a flight plan that had taken him from Monrovia, Liberia, through Burssels, Belgium, and Washington, D.C. It's believed he contracted the deadly virus in his hometown five days earlier when he helped a pregnant neighbor get to the hospital believing she was having a miscarriage. The woman later died of Ebola.
Duncan began showing symptoms of the illness on Sept. 24 but didn't go to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital until Sept. 26 — and he was sent home with antibiotics by hospital staff who didn't realize the severity of his case. Two days later, on Sept. 28, an ambulance was called to his Dallas apartment to take him back to the hospital. On Sept. 30 it was confirmed that Duncan had Ebola.
President Obama held a meeting with various cabinet members and agency heads on Monday to discuss the Ebola crisis — including Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey, CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
Following the meeting the president said that he was "confident" that the American people are safe and that the chances of an outbreak in the U.S. are "extremely low. He said his administration would work on additional measures to screen people entering the U.S. from high-risk countries, and "we're also going to be working on protocols to do additional, faster screening both at source and here in the United States"
A U.S. airlines trade group was also meeting with health and safety officials on Monday to discuss whether additional screenings for Ebola could help contain the spread of the virus.