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Coon Rapids man who died from Ebola in Nigeria was headed back to Minnesota soon

Sawyer, pictured here with his wife, was quarantined on July 20. He died five days later.
Sawyer, pictured here with his wife, was quarantined on July 20. He died five days later.
KSTP screengrab

-- Update at bottom --

Last week, Minnesota came close to becoming the first place in the Western Hemisphere to experience an Ebola case when Patrick Sawyer, a 40-year-old Coon Rapids man, was stricken with the disease in Lagos, Nigeria shortly before he planned to board a flight back home.

Though he lived in Minnesota, Sawyer worked for the Liberian Ministry of Finance. Witnesses reported that he started vomiting and had diarrhea during his flight from Liberia to Lagos, where he was headed for a conference.

See also:
Plot of Contagion comes to life as Minnesota woman quarantined on suspicion of monkeypox

That, of course, is particularly worrisome for the 50 other passengers on Sawyer's last flight, as the disease, which has up to a 90 percent fatality rate an extremely high fatality rate, is spread through contact with bodily fluids. (See update below.)

Furthermore, the incubation period for Ebola is up to three weeks, meaning Sawyer very well could've boarded his flight to be back in Minnesota in time for two of his young daughters' August birthdays before falling ill.

Sawyer's widow, Decontee Sawyer, told KSTP, "It's a global problem because Patrick could've easily come home with Ebola... It's close, it's at our front door. It knocked down my front door."

Citing Center for Disease Control officials, the Washington Post calls the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which has killed nearly 700 since February, "the worst in history."

Decontee, who lamented to the Pioneer Press that she has "three daughters who will never get to know their father," has teamed with her church community to create the "Concerned Liberians Against Ebola" Facebook page. The goal is to raise $500,000 for two international organizations -- Samaritan's Purse and Global Health Ministry.

:::: UPDATE ::::

After this post was published, we received the following email from Laurel Nightingale, printed here in full:

Hi Aaron,

I am a public health practitioner from Minnesota and I have been in Sierra Leone for the past two months watching this Ebola outbreak unfold. While I appreciate the desire to make the public aware of the issue, you have helped perpetuate some of the falsehoods that are driving this outbreak.

To be explicitly clear: this strain of Ebola does NOT have a 90% fatality rate. In Sierra Leone it has remained relatively constant, closer to 33%. Most major media outlets are over-reporting the number of deaths from the disease. I can't speak for the situation in other countries, but regarding Sierra Leone most articles are quoting at least 70 extra deaths from Ebola, which falsely inflates the fatality rate.

This outbreak is serious, without a doubt, but the misinformation and stigma around the disease are the real problem. Unfortunately, publishing information like you did--which is decidedly untrue about this strain--contributes to the problem. It is not only Minnesotans who read these articles. People here can access the internet and consume media that is geared towards western audiences. The more reporters perpetuate this kind of inaccurate information, the worse the situation is.

Please take this into consideration for future publications.

Regards,

Laurel Nightingale

h/t -- CNN and Daily Mail

Send your story tips to the author, Aaron Rupar. Follow him on Twitter @atrupar.




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