NEW YORK- The first known person to develop Ebola in the United States died Wednesday at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. He was 42.

“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 am. Mr Duncan succumbed to an insidious disease, Ebola. He fought courageously in this battle,” a statement from Texas Health Resources said. “Our professionals, the doctors and nurses in the unit, as well as the entire Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas community, are also grieving his passing. We have offered the family our support and condolences at this difficult time,” the statement continued.

A day before Duncan’s death, a top government official said doctors were scrambling to keep him alive.

“What we have learned about Ebola is how important it is to get the patient’s basic care right,” said Dr Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC confirmed Sept 30 that Duncan tested positive for Ebola, quickly announcing to the public that it would be tracking down potential contacts alongside local officials.

Since then, authorities have identified 10 people who definitely came into direct contact with Duncan, and 38 possible contacts, Frieden said Tuesday.

The Dallas hospital has been criticised for turning Duncan away when he first came to their emergency room on Sept 25 with symptoms and told them he was travelling from Liberia. That incident represented “a teachable moment,” Frieden said Oct 2.

According to authorities, Duncan arrived in Dallas on Sept 20 from Liberia, and did not develop any symptoms for several days. Because of this, Frieden and others have said, he would not have been infectious during the flight.

Now officials will face the question of how to handle Duncan’s remains.

Doctors know that the body of someone who’s just died of Ebola is dangerous: The virus can live in bodily fluids and tissue so long as they stay wet and room temperature. Many deaths have been linked to the handling of bodies in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Anyone at the hospital who is handling the body of someone who died of Ebola must wear personal protective equipment, including a scrub suit, cap, gown over the suit, eye protection, face mask and two pairs of gloves, it was pointed out. The body must be wrapped in a plastic shroud. It should not be washed. It must be put into a leak-proof plastic bag that zips closed, and then into another one right away. This whole package should be disinfected and then the room disinfected.

The body should then either be cremated or put into a hermetically sealed casket immediately so that family members can safely have a funeral, according to the CDC.

The current outbreak of Ebola, the worst ever recorded, has killed 3,879 people out of 8,033 cases as of Oct 5, according to a Wednesday report from the World Health Organisation. The situation in the most heavily affected countries — Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone — “continues to deteriorate,” the WHO report said.