Sun, Oct 05, 2014 - Page 7 News List

US government urges calm over Ebola

UNDER CONTROL:Five senior officials said on Friday a widespread outbreak of Ebola in the US is unlikely and that the healthcare system can deal with any eventuality


A hazardous-materials team member arrives to clean a unit at the Ivy Apartments, where a confirmed Ebola patient was staying, in Dallas, Texas, on Friday.

Photo: AFP

The administration of US President Barack Obama urged calm over the single case of Ebola in the US, seeking to reassure the public that there was little chance of an outbreak of the disease in the country. At the same time, the military said it had begun the long-awaited aid to disease-ravaged Liberia, with medical testing at two new labs and construction of treatment centers.

The administration has long contended that the best way to contain Ebola is to attack it at its source. The Pentagon’s spokesman said on Friday that up to 4,000 troops could be deployed to West Africa, a number that has been slowly climbing as military leaders arrive and assess the need.

However, in the US, “we need to get the information out because there is a lot of fear,” the National Institutes of Health’s Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci said.

“Our healthcare infrastructure in the United States is well-equipped to stop Ebola in its tracks,” he added.

The unusual high-level briefing at the White House on Friday reflected the administration’s urgency in seeking to reassure the public that a widespread outbreak of Ebola in the US was unlikely.

Fauci was one of five senior administration officials who briefed reporters on Friday, including US Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell and US Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco.

Monaco said the US was not considering a travel ban to prevent people from the hardest-hit West African countries from coming to the US and said efforts were instead focused on identifying high-risk individuals before they leave the outbreak zone. Dozens and dozens of people have been stopped from getting on flights in the region, she said.

“The most effective way to go about controlling this is to prevent those individuals from getting on a plane in the first place,” Monaco said.

The first person diagnosed with Ebola in the US went to a Dallas hospital last week, but was mistakenly sent home, despite revealing he was visiting from Liberia, before returning by ambulance days later. Texas officials now are monitoring 50 people, 10 of whom they consider at high risk, who came into contact with the man. They have had to quarantine four of them and even had problems getting rid of the infectious waste left in the apartment where the patient stayed.

“There were things that did not go the way they should have in Dallas,” Fauci said. “But there were a lot of things that went right and are going right.”

The White House said Obama planned to meet with his national security advisers tomorrow to discuss the Ebola outbreak and the administration’s response.

Back at the Pentagon, Navy Rear Admral John Kirby said the military has begun medical testing for Ebola at two new labs in Liberia. Also, service members are starting to build two treatment centers there for victims of the deadly disease, he said, and a hospital for infected medical personnel should be finished by the end of the month.

Kirby said that the service members are not going to treat patients and are not expected to come in contact with anyone who is infected. However, he said the military is training the troops about how to avoid getting Ebola and also setting plans in place to deal with any service member who might get infected.

“We’re going to train them up on what Ebola looks like, feels like, does. While they’re there, they’re going to be constantly monitored on a regular, frequent basis,” Kirby said. “There will be a screening process to make sure that once they’re no longer there, that we’re able to stay in touch with them, make sure that they haven’t ... felt or experienced any symptoms.”

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