Hospital Changes Story on Mishandled Ebola Case

Did the US's first Ebola patient lie about his travel history - or is a computer malfunction to blame?

Tova Dvorin ,

Ebola virus (file)
Ebola virus (file)

Human error, or computer fault? 

The Dallas, TX hospital that mishandled the US's first Ebola case initially reported that Liberian native Thomas Duncan had lied about his contact with a woman infected with the deadly disease upon admission and that a computer error hid other clues that his symptoms matched the virus, through a filing error. 

But now, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital claims that the information was available to all hospital staff upon Duncan's initial evaluation, Yahoo! News reports Sunday, and has offered no explanation as to how the case slipped through the cracks.  

“There was no flaw in the EHR in the way the physician and nursing portions interacted related to this event,” the hospital said in a written statement Saturday afternoon. 

Originally, the hospital had been adamant that any flaws in the system had been fixed.

Texas Health Dallas has relocated the travel history documentation to a portion of the EHR that is part of both workflows,” the hospital stated on Thursday. “It also has been modified to specifically reference Ebola-endemic regions in Africa. We have made this change to increase the visibility and documentation of the travel question in order to alert all providers. We feel that this change will improve the early identification of patients who may be at risk for communicable diseases, including Ebola.”

Duncan's condition has been downgraded from "serious" to "critical." 

Duncan, 42, was admitted to the hospital late last month after he exhibited symptoms of the virus, which include nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, a cough, chest pain, and red eyes.

News surfaced shortly after the diagnosis that he had boarded a flight to the US without notifying Liberian authorities about his contact with an infected patient, and that he may have come into contact with over 100 people as the virus lay dormant. 

On Saturday, Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Service, urged for American medical professionals to learn from the mishandled case. 

“The travel history is very, very important to take right now and it has to be communicated,” Lakey stated. “If you have a patient with a fever or symptoms that could possibly be related to Ebola, you've got to ask that travel history and take it seriously.”