Back in Liberia, Ebola is killing Thomas Duncan’s neighbors

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MONROVIA, Liberia — His home in Monrovia is just as he left it when he boarded the plane to the United States.

A tiny tin-roofed room in a run-down building that’s now the focal point of so much of the paranoia ricocheting across the world.

But while the United States struggles to contain the fear stirred up by Thomas Eric Duncan’s diagnosis in Dallas, here there’s a different concern. Here, they are struggling to come to terms with the mounting death toll of all those who — like Duncan — came in contact with the pregnant woman who gave him Ebola.

Thomas Eric Duncan

Thomas Eric Duncan

Already nine others are dead or dying. All the neighbors have been put in quarantine. And local officials are trying to get in touch with everyone who may have interacted with the pregnant woman, Marthalene Williams.

That number?

“Right now, according to statistics that we got, close to 100,” says Pewo Wolobah from the local Ebola task force.

Desperation and despair

In Monrovia, like in several African hotspots, the challenge of containing the virus is staggering.

The disease has killed more than 3,400, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Liberia has been hit the worst — with 2,069 dead.

Hence, the desperation and despair in the homes along 72nd SKD Boulevard.

Ebola spreads exponentially. If any of those people had direct contact with Williams’ saliva or other bodily fluids, they are in danger of contracting the highly infectious disease — and potentially passing it on.

Unsuspecting contact

Marthalene Williams was in her seventh month of pregnancy when she collapsed.

Duncan rushed to help. Williams’ 12-year-old sister Tete was with him at the time, as were several other people.

“We’ve been through this over and over,” Wolobah says. “We tell the people no matter how much you love the person. It is the health authority that is responsible to pick up the sick.”

But none of them knew Williams had Ebola, Tete says.

Both of Williams’ parents have tested positive for Ebola.

Another woman who also ran to Williams’ side was rushed to a hospital days later. Soon afterward, a neighbor was given the difficult task of telling her 9-year-old daughter that her mom is never coming home.

And Duncan lies in a hospital bed in Dallas, critically ill.

All of them contracted Ebola trying to do good. Helping Williams was the right thing to do — the right thing with devastating consequences.

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