(CNN) — A federal official has contradicted earlier information that 80 people in the Dallas area are being monitored for Ebola.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said health officials are contacting up to 100 people to determine whether they had contact with Dallas Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan while he was contagious.
Only a small set of that group — “more than 12” — have been identified as having contact with Duncan and are being monitored for signs of Ebola, the source said.
Earlier health officials said they were monitoring not only the people the Dallas Ebola patient had contact with while he was contagious and not isolated, but also dozens of people that they subsequently contacted, Dallas County Health and Human Services spokeswoman Erikka Neroes said Thursday.
Eighty people — the patient’s contacts, plus the contacts’ contacts — were said to be being monitored for Ebola in the Dallas area, Neroes said. None has shown symptoms, and all are being given educational materials, Neroes said.
Earlier, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said the patient’s direct contacts numbered up to 20.
While Thomas Eric Duncan remains in serious but stable condition at a Dallas hospital, some parents are scared to take their kids to the schools that his girlfriend’s children attended.
Others are upset at the hospital where Duncan first sought care, which sent him home and raised the possibility he could infect others for at least two additional days.
As the search continues for those Duncan had contact with, here’s the latest on how the case is affecting others:
‘I just got scared’
Duncan was in Dallas visiting his girlfriend, Liberian community leader Stanley Gaye said.
Among the people he encountered: his girlfriend’s five children, Gaye said.
Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Mike Miles said the patient came in contact with five students who attended four different schools in the area.
Sam Tasby Middle School is one of those schools.
“I just got scared because I thought that that kid came to that school and probably got contact with him,” said Nellie Catalan, whose child attends the middle school.
“I know it doesn’t get (spread) by the air, but you never know.”
More than 3,500 students attend the four schools. Each is getting cleaned and sanitized over the next few days.
But student Denise Trujillo said she’s still worried.
“I don’t feel like going to school tomorrow,” she said.
While the five students who were near Duncan are staying home and being monitored, their schools will remain open.
But out of “an abundance of caution,” state and Dallas County health officials have ordered four close relatives of the patient to stay home and not have any visitors until at least October 19.
“This order gives us the ability to monitor the situation in the most meticulous way,” Texas Health Commissioner Dr. David Lakey said in a statement.
‘It gets bad — fast’
Because the early symptoms of Ebola can include abdominal pain, fever and vomiting — ailments that also come with other illnesses — there are concerns about how to distinguish between Ebola and, say, the flu.
But the answer is fairly simple.
“Ebola tends to progress much more quickly,” CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta said. “It gets bad — fast.”
And once it gets bad, Ebola can bring on a host of ghastly symptoms — including diarrhea and unexplained bruising and bleeding.
But Ebola is much harder to contract than the flu. The virus can only be spread through the bodily fluids of people who have active symptoms of the illness.
‘They dropped the ball’
Four days after he arrived in Dallas from Liberia, Duncan started feeling symptoms on September 24. That day is significant because that’s when he started being contagious.
Late the following night, he went to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas with a low-grade fever and abdominal pain, the hospital said.
Duncan told a nurse he had been in Africa.
But “regretfully, that information was not fully communicated throughout the full team,” said Dr. Mark Lester, executive vice president of Texas Health Resources.
Duncan was sent home with pain killers and antibiotics — only to return in worse condition on September 28. That’s when he was isolated.
“It was a mistake. They dropped the ball,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said of the miscommunication at the hospital.
“You don’t want to pile on them, but hopefully this will never happen again. … The CDC has been vigorously emphasizing the need for a travel history.”
Gupta said this mishap doesn’t make sense.
“A nurse did ask the question and he did respond that he was in Liberia and that wasn’t transmitted to people who were in charge of his care,” CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta said. “There’s no excuse for this.”
And one of Duncan’s friends said he was the one contacted the CDC with concerns that the hospital wasn’t moving quickly enough after Duncan’s second hospital visit.
But the hospital said the patient’s condition “did not warrant admission” last week.
Searching for others
In the roughly four days he was contagious and not isolated, Duncan came in contact with up to 20 people, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said.
Those contacts will be monitored for 21 days — the longest amount of time it takes for Ebola symptoms to show up.
If any of Duncan’s contacts show symptoms, they will be isolated.
And so far, so good.
The paramedics who transported Duncan to the hospital haven’t shown symptoms, Rawlings said.
Neither have his girlfriend’s children.
“They are doing well. … They are doing fine,” Gaye, the Liberian community leader. “All she asks for are our prayers.”
But if one of those contacts ends up having Ebola, the tedious processes of tracking and monitoring a web of contacts would have to start all over again.
CNN’s Gary Tuchman reported from Dallas; CNN’s Holly Yan reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Jennifer Bixler, Catherine E. Shoichet, Ashley Fantz, Jake Tapper, John Branch, Jason Morris and Greg Botelho contributed to this report.