WASHINGTON - The first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States died Wednesday despite intense but delayed treatment, and the government announced it was expanding examinations at airports to guard against the spread of the deadly disease.
Checks will include taking the temperatures of hundreds of travelers arriving from West Africa at five major American airports.
The new screenings will begin Saturday at New York's JFK International Airport and then expand to Washington Dulles International and the international airports in Atlanta, Chicago and Newark. An estimated 150 people per day will be checked, using high-tech thermometers that don't touch the skin.
The White House said the fever checks would reach more than nine of 10 travelers to the United States from the three heaviest-hit countries: Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
President Barack Obama called the measures "really just belt and suspenders" to support protections already in place. Border Patrol agents look for people who are obviously ill, as do flight crews, and in those cases the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is notified.
It's unlikely a fever check would have spotted Thomas Eric Duncan, 42, the Liberian man who died of Ebola in a Dallas hospital Wednesday morning. Duncan wasn't yet showing symptoms when he arrived in the United States.
A delay in diagnosing and treating Duncan, and the infection of a nurse who treated an Ebola patient in Spain, have raised worries about Western nations' ability to stop the disease that has killed at least 3,800 people in West Africa.
Duncan, 42, had become a human face of Ebola for many Americans who were unaware of the disease that has ravaged parts of West Africa and killed more than 3,400 people there.
"It is with profound sadness and heartfelt disappointment that we must inform you of the death of Thomas Eric Duncan this morning at 7:51 a.m.," Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas said in a statement.
Duncan will be cremated to kill any virus in the body so the remains can be returned to the family, Texas officials announced.
Duncan left Liberia on Sept. 19 to visit Louise Troh, with whom he was reconciling and planned to marry in Dallas. They were to live as a family with their 19-year-old son, a student at Angelo State University in west Texas.
"His suffering is over," Troh said in a statement. "My family is in deep sadness and grief, but we leave him in the hands of God. Our deepest sympathies go out to his father and family in Liberia and here in America."
"I trust a thorough examination will take place regarding all aspects of his care," she said. "I am now dealing with the sorrow and anger that his son was not able to see him before he died. This will take some time, but in the end, I believe in a merciful God."
On Sept. 25, Duncan, feeling ill, went to the hospital was treated and released with antibiotics. On Sept. 28, he was transported to the hospital by emergency medical personnel and formally diagnosed with Ebola days later. In the hospital, Duncan had been treated with the experimental antiviral drug brincidofovir.
Officials have been monitoring Duncan's immediate and secondary contacts, but none of the 48 people has developed any symptoms, officials said. Troh and three other family members are in quarantine. Their risk of becoming ill will end on Oct. 19.
In a sign of the unease the disease is causing, a sheriff's deputy who went into the apartment where Duncan had stayed was hospitalized Wednesday after feeling ill.
"This patient had reported that they had been in the apartment of the initial Ebola patient in Dallas," said fire Chief Mark Piland in suburban Frisco, north of Dallas. "They had not had contact with the patient, but (with) family members."
Nevertheless, firefighters and paramedics are "currently being decontaminated" with advice from the CDC, to be safe, Piland said. The deputy did not have all the symptoms of Ebola, he said. "Right now they're treating this as a low-risk event," Piland said.
There are no nonstop flights to the United States from the three West African countries affected by the Ebola outbreak. But Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said his department can track passengers whose travel originated in any of the three, regardless of where they connected or if they were traveling on separate tickets.
Information from the Los Angeles Times was used in this report.
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The day's developments
Around the world, health authorities scrambled to respond to the disease Wednesday:
WASHINGTON: Secretary of State John Kerry made a plea for more nations to contribute to the effort to stop the disease in West Africa, saying the international effort was $300 million short of what's needed. He said nations must step up quickly with a wide range of support, from doctors and mobile medical labs to basic humanitarian aid such as food.
SPAIN: Doctors said they may have figured out how a nurse became the first person infected outside of West Africa in this outbreak. Teresa Romero said she remembered once touching her face with her glove after leaving the quarantine room where an Ebola victim was being treated. Romero's condition was stable.
SIERRA LEONE: Burial teams returned to their work of picking up the bodies of Ebola victims, after a one-day strike to demand overdue hazard pay.
LIBERIA: Health workers were threatening a strike if their demands for more money and personal protective gear are not met by the end of the week. The average health worker salary is currently less than $500 per month, even for the most highly trained staff.
WORLD BANK: It estimated that the economic toll of the largest Ebola outbreak in history could reach $32.6 billion if the disease continues to spread through next year.