First person in U.S. diagnosed with Ebola dies - HISTORY
Year
2014

First person in U.S. diagnosed with Ebola dies

On this day in 2014, Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with a case of the Ebola Virus Disease in the U.S., dies at age 42 at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Shortly before his death, Duncan, who lived in Liberia, had traveled to America from West Africa, which was in the throes of the largest outbreak of the often-fatal disease since its discovery in 1976. After Duncan passed away, two nurses who’d cared for him at the Dallas hospital contracted Ebola; however, both recovered.

On September 15, 2014, Duncan helped transport a sick pregnant woman to a hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. There was no space for the woman at the facility, so she was taken back to the residence where she’d been staying and died not long afterward from Ebola. On September 19, Duncan—whose relatives later said didn’t know he’d been exposed to Ebola—flew to Dallas to visit his fiancé. He arrived in Texas on September 20 and five days later went to the emergency room at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital complaining of abdominal pain and dizziness. Duncan told a nurse he’d recently traveled from Africa but this information wasn’t effectively communicated to the rest of the medical team, who after a matter of hours sent him home with antibiotics.

On September 28, Duncan, his health deteriorating, returned to the hospital by ambulance. Two days later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Duncan (who wasn’t named publicly at the time) was the first person in America diagnosed with Ebola, a disease that spreads through direct contact with body fluids of an infected individual. (Within a year after the West African Ebola outbreak first was reported in March 2014, thousands of people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea had perished.) Duncan’s diagnosis sparked anxiety and fear about Ebola across the U.S.; at the time, there were no proven treatments or vaccines for the disease. Health officials started tracking the dozens of people who might’ve come into contact with Duncan after he first became ill, and four of his family members were placed under quarantine for three weeks. None of these people developed Ebola.

Duncan died on October 8 and three days later a nurse who’d cared for him at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital tested positive for Ebola. Four days later, a second nurse at the hospital was confirmed to have contracted the disease. Both women were placed in isolation units at separate medical centers, treated with experimental drugs and declared Ebola-free later that month.

As a result of the events in Dallas, federal officials instituted enhanced screening procedures at a group of U.S. airports handling travelers coming into the country from places with Ebola outbreaks. Officials also issued new guidelines for protective gear worn by health care workers treating patients infected with the virus.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

First transcontinental air race

The first transcontinental air race in the United States begins, with 63 planes competing in the round-trip aerial derby between California and New York. As 15 planes departed the Presidio in San Francisco, California, 48 planes left Roosevelt Field on Long Island, New ...read more

Massive earthquake hits Kashmir region

On this day in 2005, a massive 7.6-magnitude earthquake strikes the Kashmir border region between India and Pakistan. An estimated 70,000 people—nearly half of them children—were killed and 70,000 more were injured. More than 3 million were left homeless and without food and ...read more

Che Guevara defeated

A Bolivian guerrilla force led by Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara is defeated in a skirmish with a special detachment of the Bolivian army. Guevara was wounded, captured, and executed the next day.Born in Argentina, Guevara believed that a man of action could revolutionize a ...read more

Great Chicago Fire begins

On this day in 1871, flames spark in the Chicago barn of Patrick and Catherine O’Leary, igniting a two-day blaze that kills between 200 and 300 people, destroys 17,450 buildings, leaves 100,000 homeless and causes an estimated $200 million (in 1871 dollars; $3 billion in 2007 ...read more

Possible breakthrough at Paris peace talks

Rumors arise that there is a breakthrough in the secret talks that had been going on in a villa outside Paris since August 1969. Henry Kissinger, President Richard Nixon’s national security advisor, and North Vietnamese negotiators conducted the peace talks. Le Duc Tho, who had ...read more

Communists reject Nixon’s peace proposal

The Communist delegation in Paris rejects President Richard Nixon’s October 7 proposal as “a maneuver to deceive world opinion.” Nixon had announced five-point proposal to end the war, based on a “standstill” cease-fire in place in South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. He proposed ...read more

Don Larsen is perfect in World Series

On October 8, 1956, New York Yankees right-hander Don Larsen pitches the first no-hitter in the history of the World Series. Even better, it was a perfect game–that is, there were no runs, no hits and no errors, and no batter reached first base. Larsen’s performance anchored his ...read more

The Great Fire destroys much of Chicago

On this night in 1871, fire breaks out in a barn behind the Chicago cottage of Patrick O’Leary. Winds blowing off the prairie fed the flames, and the fire spread rapidly, eventually consuming a four-mile-long and two-third-mile-wide swath of Chicago. When the Great Fire was ...read more

Lord Peter Wimsey marries Harriet Vane

Fictional detective Lord Peter Wimsey finally marries Harriet Vane, a prickly mystery writer he has pursued through several novels, on this day in 1937 in the novel Busman’s Honeymoon. The novel, by Dorothy Sayers, was one of the last featuring the two English sleuths.Sayers, ...read more

Matt Damon born

On this day in 1970, Matt Damon, the future star of a long list of hit movies, including Good Will Hunting, Saving Private Ryan and The Bourne Identity, is born in Cambridge, Massachusetts.Damon, who attended Harvard University but left before graduating to pursue an acting ...read more

Fire rips through Chicago

The Great Chicago Fire begins on this day in 1871. It goes on to kill 250 people, leave 100,000 people homeless and destroy thousands of buildings. All told, the fire was responsible for an estimated $200 million in damages (more than $3 billion in today’s money), approximately ...read more

Battle of Perryville

The Confederate invasion of Kentucky stalls when Union General Don Carlos Buell stops General Braxton Bragg at the Battle of Perryville. In August 1862, two Confederate forces, commanded by Bragg and General Edmund Kirby Smith, entered Kentucky. The Rebels hoped to raise troops ...read more