Latest Updates / Ebola Expert Says China at Risk, Seeks Japan Aid

Samantha Power in Africa: Global fight against Ebola improving but far from won; Quarantined Ebola nurse in Maine goes outside; nurse's actions signal potential showdown with state police.

Reuters

Click here for Wednesday's updates on the Ebola outbreak

Latest updates:

3:51 P.M. North Korea to quarantine foreigners over Ebola fears

North Korean officials have announced they will quarantine foreigners for 21 days over fears of the spread of the Ebola virus.

An announcement distributed to foreign diplomatic missions in Pyongyang said that, regardless of country or region of origin, all foreigners will be quarantined under medical observation for 21 days.

It said foreigners from affected areas will be quarantined at one set of locations, while those from unaffected areas will be sent to other locations, including hotels. It said the staff of diplomatic missions and international organizations in North Korea will be allowed to stay in their residences.

A copy of the document, dated Wednesday, was obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday.

There have been no reported cases of Ebola in North Korea. (AP)

2:00 P.M.  Ebola expert says China at risk, seeks Japan aid

A scientist who helped to discover the Ebola virus says he is concerned that the disease could spread to China given the large numbers of Chinese workers traveling to and from Africa.

Peter Piot, who is director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said Thursday it's not "rocket science" that with many exchanges between the two regions the disease could spread.

"The concern I have is that I don't think you can really stop people from traveling. These patients will show up in any country in the world, but China is quite vulnerable," Piot said.

"The issue is: What is the quality, the standard of infection control? In public hospitals in China, the ones that I've visited, the level of infection control is very poor," he said.

More than 8,600 people have entered China's southern Guangdong province from Ebola-affected areas since August, and there are dozens of flights a month. All arriving from those areas are monitored for three weeks after they enter China and are to be immediately quarantined if they run a fever, according to Health Ministry guidelines.

Piot said China's controls for infectious diseases have improved and authorities have become more open about public health risks since severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, broke out in southern China in 2002. SARS infected about 8,000 people worldwide, killing nearly 800.

China is also stepping up aid, providing $86 million, to the three West African countries at the heart of the crisis and has sent nearly 200 medical staff.

Piot is a board member of the Global Health Innovative Technology fund, a collaboration supported by the Japanese government, Japanese pharmaceutical companies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that funds research into treatments for malaria, tuberculosis, dengue and other so-called neglected tropical diseases. Piot said that despite the urgency of the crisis, it was crucial that funds going to those efforts not be diverted to work on Ebola.

Japan has pledged $40 million so far to help combat the Ebola outbreak, but Piot said more is needed.

"I appeal to Japan to contribute from their very rich tradition, in all senses of the word of humanitarian assistance," he said. "When there is a humanitarian crisis, there is always money, and rightly so. Ebola is in that category." (AP)

4:13 A.M. Quarantined Ebola nurse goes outside; police watch

A nurse who treated Ebola patients in West Africa said she plans to end her voluntary quarantine and even stepped outside her home briefly on Wednesday.

Kaci Hickox's words and actions signaled a potential showdown with state police monitoring her home and state officials seeking to legally enforce the quarantine. Police stood across the street and watched as Hickox held an impromptu press conference outside with her boyfriend.

State officials are seeking a court order allowing state troopers to detain Hickox, said Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew.
Hickox, who has shown no symptoms of Ebola, told NBC's "Today" show and ABC's "Good Morning America" she was abiding by the state's voluntary quarantine by having no contact with people Tuesday and Wednesday. But she said she'll defy the state if the policy isn't changed by Thursday.

"I remain appalled by these home quarantine policies that have been forced upon me even though I am in perfectly good health," Hickox said on "Today." Her lawyer Norman Siegel said she isn't willing to cooperate further unless the state lifts "all or most of the restrictions." But state officials continued to assert that she should remain in isolation until Nov. 10, the end of the 21-day incubation period for Ebola.

A judge would have to grant the state's request in what could serve as a test as to the legality of state quarantines during the Ebola scare. (AP)

2:32 A.M. Samantha Power: Global fight against Ebola grows but far from won

U.S. envoy Samantha Power said she will return from West Africa to the United States and the United Nations on Thursday with a message of "hope and possibility" that the global response to the Ebola outbreak is working, but more resources are needed.

Speaking to Reuters after visiting the three worst-affected countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, Power said among several areas to focus on was removing the stigma of the deadly hemorrhagic disease in those countries and around the world.

"It is quite literally the most heartbreaking form of ailment that any community could ever go through where you cannot care for your loved ones," Power said. "The only thing worse than losing a child is not being able to hold the child that you're losing. It's mind-blowing."  She said recently established command and control centers in the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone - bringing together the governments, the United Nations, foreign countries taking a lead in the response and aid groups - were proving successful. The coordination was "a sight to behold," said Power.

"What we have is not enough, but we know from our interventions that they can have these pronounced speedy effects. So now we can say you have opportunity to be a part of a winning enterprise," Power said of her bid to convince more countries to join the response efforts. (Reuters)