100 people under watch for signs of Ebola in Texas

First case on US soil being probed; fourth American infected in Liberia

DALLAS - Health officials in Texas were monitoring 100 people for signs of Ebola and ordered four members of a family to stay home as the authorities investigate the first confirmed US case of the deadly disease.

The development came as the United States prepared yesterday to fly home a cameraman, the fourth American to contract Ebola in Liberia.

Setting an ambitious goal to eradicate the deadly virus, the United Nations launched a mission on Thursday to prevent its global spread, describing the epidemic as the world's "highest priority".

Mr Thomas Eric Duncan - the first person diagnosed with Ebola on US soil - flew from Liberia and arrived in Texas on Sept 20 to visit family.

Liberian officials said on Thursday that they planned to prosecute Mr Duncan for lying on a questionnaire about his exposure to an Ebola patient.

"He lied on his form," said Mr Binyah Kesselly, chairman of the Liberia Airport Authority. "If he had answered truthfully", he added, Mr Duncan would not have been allowed to leave the country.

Mr Duncan, who had a fever only after arriving in Texas, was initially sent home when he first sought medical care, meaning there was a four-day span when he was sick and contagious while in contact with others, sparking concern over how many others may have been exposed.

About 100 people who had potential contact with Mr Duncan are being assessed, said Centres for Disease Control and Prevention chief Thomas R. Frieden.

"We have interviewed most of those people, but far from all," Dr Frieden added.

"We have identified a handful of people who may have had exposure," he said, adding that they were "people from the household and health-care settings as well". Fourteen people have so far tested negative, he said.

Four members of a family with whom Mr Duncan stayed will be required to stay home without visitors until Oct 19. Their apartment is under guard.

Two local schools with links to those possibly exposed to Mr Duncan reported high rates of absenteeism as worried parents kept their children at home.

In a separate development, NBC television said Mr Ashoka Mukpoa, 33, a freelance cameraman working for the network in Liberia, had caught the disease.

"He immediately quarantined himself and sought medical advice," NBC said.

NBC News president Deborah Turness said the rest of the crew in Liberia were being monitored and showing no symptoms, adding: "However, in an abundance of caution, we will fly them back on a private charter flight and then they will place themselves under quarantine in the United States for 21 days, which is at the most conservative end of the spectrum of medical guidance."

Mr Anthony Banbury, head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), travelled to Sierra Leone yesterday for the second leg of a tour of the three hardest-hit nations.

"The only way we will end this crisis is if we end every single last case of Ebola so there is no more risk of transmission to anyone and, when that's accomplished, UNMEER will go home," Mr Banbury told journalists on Thursday in the Liberian capital Freetown.

He added that he was intent on contributing to "the highest priority for the international community - for the whole world, not just the United Nations".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NEW YORK TIMES

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