October 15, 2014

RESPONDING TO EBOLA takes a community-wide response.

Containing the Ebola virus in a major U.S. city requires more than just a trained hospital staff and good equipment.

It takes a long list of people and companies, from clean-up firms willing to haul away Ebola-infected waste to landlords ready to house potential carriers of the virus to social workers who could ease the stress of an outbreak, from many corners of a community. “Literally hundreds of people somehow touched this to make it happen,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said. “Every time you turn around, you find another expert you need. It literally is a village making this process happen.”

When news of the first confirmed case of Ebola in the USA was announced Sept. 30, state, local and federal officials in Dallas scrambled to decontaminate everything around town where the patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, had been after he arrived from Liberia..

At first, it wasn’t easy. Officials called a number of companies about decontaminating the apartment where Duncan had stayed with his fiancée, Louise Troh, and three other family members. One after another, the companies declined.

The call finally went to the Cleaning Guys, a Fort Worth-based hazardous waste cleanup firm. The company, which usually deals with highway spills and hospital cleanups, took the job.

“It was a real eye-opener,” owner Erick McCallum said. “We train for things like this, but then it hits home. We realized, ‘We’re not dreaming. This is really happening.'”

Over 24 hours, more than 15 workers in hazmat suits stripped the northeast Dallas apartment where Duncan and Troh stayed, tearing up carpets, mattresses, furniture, “everything not bolted down,” McCallum said. Workers tripled-bagged the items and crammed them into 140 55-gallon drums.

The drums needed to be driven to an incinerator 400 miles away, where they would be destroyed. But getting the appropriate permits from the Department of Transportation took a few days, because the agency needed to draw up permits specifically for Ebola transport, McCallum said.

So where did all this money go?

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