Ebola: More calls for travel bans or quarantines

AP News
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Posted: Oct 25, 2014 6:57 AM
Ebola: More calls for travel bans or quarantines

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Ebola virus's arrival in New York City and yet another West African nation — Mali — renewed questions about whether stricter travel restrictions would help lock down the deadly disease. The governors of New York and New Jersey went ahead and issued their own quarantine order.

There was good news, too, on Friday as one of the two American nurses who caught Ebola from a patient headed home from the hospital, stopping by the White House to get a celebratory hug from President Barack Obama. European nations pledged more money to fight the virus in Africa.

But the World Health Organization said Saturday the number of people believed to have Ebola has risen above 10,000.

A look at Ebola developments worldwide:

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NERVOUS NEW YORKERS

Many New Yorkers were rattled by the news that a doctor unknowingly infected with the virus had ridden the subway, visited parks and gone bowling after returning from treating Ebola patients in Guinea.

Health officials said Dr. Craig Spencer followed U.S. and international protocols by checking his temperature daily and seeking treatment Thursday when he suffered diarrhea and a 100.3-degree fever.

He was listed in stable condition Friday at a special isolation unit at Bellevue Hospital Center, and a decontamination company was sent to his Harlem home. His fiancee, who was not showing symptoms, was in quarantine.

Ebola isn't contagious until the infected person becomes ill, and city officials tried to reassure New Yorkers. But some people were breaking out the hand sanitizer and imagining scenarios where Ebola might spread through the city's subway and other crowded spaces.

"There is no cause for alarm," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "New Yorkers who have not been exposed to an infected person's bodily fluids are simply not at risk.

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QUARANTINE QUESTION

The New York case prompted the governors of New York and New Jersey to issue a 21-day quarantine for any travelers, including doctors, who had contact with Ebola patients in West Africa.

Earlier in the day, at a congressional hearing, some U.S. lawmakers urged a travel ban or a quarantine. It can take up to 21 days after someone is infected to become sick.

They cited errors in the handling of the Dallas Ebola case and said the New York situation exposed more problems with the government's response to the disease.

"I can tell you it's not working. All you need to do is look at Craig Spencer," said Rep. John Mica, R-Fla.

Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., said health authorities weren't taking the threat seriously enough.

"This can't just be about ideology and happy talk," Lynch said.

Dr. Nicole Lurie, assistant HHS secretary for preparedness and response, told lawmakers a travel ban would be counterproductive and make it harder to stop the disease in West Africa, where the hardest-hit nations are desperate for more resources and medical help.

"There is an epidemic of fear, but not of Ebola, in the United States," Lurie said.

Doctors Without Borders, which has been at the forefront of the battle against Ebola, stuck by its guidelines for health workers returning from the hot zone. They are closely monitored for disease and don't need to be quarantined if they aren't showing symptoms, the group said in a statement.

Samaritan's Purse, a Christian relief organization based in North Carolina, said that its returning aid workers spend three weeks isolated in a "safe house," where they are monitored for fever and asked to stay away from crowds and not visit with family.

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NOW IN MALI, TOO

A 2-year-old girl who traveled by bus from Guinea with her grandmother died of Ebola after arriving in Mali. It was the first case in that West African nation, and World Health Organization officials say that because the child was sick and bleeding from her nose, she may have infected many people.

Health officials are monitoring 43 people, including 10 health care workers, who might have been exposed and the WHO is sending experts to help.

The disease is out of control in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Cases also have reached Nigeria and Senegal since the outbreak began in March, but those West African countries were able to stop its spread.

More than 4,800 people have died in the outbreak.

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WHO: MORE THAN 10,000 SICKENED

As the outbreak continued to spread, the WHO said Saturday the number of people believed sickened by Ebola has passed 10,000. The Ebola epidemic in West Africa is the largest outbreak of the disease ever. There have also been cases in three other West African countries, Spain and the United States.

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NURSES ON THE MEND

The two nurses who caught Ebola from a hospital patient in Dallas are now free of the disease.

The first to fall ill, Nina Pham, left a government hospital near Washington with a big smile, telling reporters she was eager to reunite with her dog, Bentley, who had been put in quarantine. The King Charles Spaniel so far has tested negative for the disease.

"I feel fortunate and blessed to be standing here today," Pham told reporters outside the hospital.

Pham, 26, was invited to the White House afterward, where Obama hugged her and praised the bravery of health care workers who put themselves at risk to help Ebola patients.

Pham and co-worker Amber Vinson were infected while caring for a Liberian man at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Thomas Eric Duncan, who became sick after traveling to the U.S., died in the hospital Oct. 8.

Vinson "is making good progress" and tests no longer find any Ebola virus in her blood, Emory University Hospital said in a statement Friday. She remains hospitalized.

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EUROPE STEPS UP

The 28 nations of the European Union are pledging more than 1 billion euros — or about $1.26 billon — to the Ebola cause.

"Helping West Africa to cope with the crisis is the most effective way to prevent a serious outbreak of the disease elsewhere," EU leaders said Friday in a statement at the end of their two-day fundraising summit.

Britain's contribution of 205 million pounds ($329 million) was the largest in the group.

Separately, China pledged $81 million to the worldwide Ebola effort.

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Associated Press writers Baba Ahmed in Mali, Marilynn Marchione in Milwaukee, Mike Stobbe in New York, and Erica Werner and Matthew Daly in Washington contributed to this report.