Latest Updates / Obama Hugs Nurse Who Suffered Ebola

U.S. considering quarantine for returning Ebola health workers; Mali Ebola patient traveled while contagious, WHO says; EU leaders agree to raise Ebola aid budget to 1 bln euros; New York City physician tests positive for Ebola

AFP

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Click here for Thursday's updates on the Ebola outbreak

Latest updates:

3:03 A.M. Obama hugs nurse who suffered Ebola

A nurse who caught Ebola while caring for a Dallas patient who died of the disease walked out of a Washington-area hospital virus-free Friday and into open arms.

Nina Pham got a hug from President Barack Obama in the Oval Office at the White House. And outside the hospital where she had been since last week, she got hugs from the nation's infectious disease chief, who oversaw her care.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest called the meeting with Obama "an opportunity for the president to thank her for her service." But the close contact between the president and the former patient also came as officials in New York tried to calm fears after a doctor was diagnosed with Ebola in that city.

Pham said she felt "fortunate and blessed to be standing here today," as she left the National Institutes of Health's Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where she had been since she arrived Oct. 16 from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.

Pham thanked her health care teams in Dallas and at the NIH and singled out fellow Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly, who recovered after becoming infected in Liberia, for donating plasma containing Ebola-fighting antibodies as part of her care.

"Although I no longer have Ebola, I know it may be a while before I have my strength back," Pham said at a news conference.

Dr. Anthony Fauci,, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told reporters that five consecutive tests showed no virus left in her blood. Five tests is way beyond the norm, he stressed, but his team did extra testing because the NIH is a research hospital. He had walked out to the news conference with his arm around Pham and later gave her a big hug.

"She is cured of Ebola, let's get that clear," Fauci said.
Pham stood throughout the approximately 20-minute press conference and was joined by her mother and sister. She read from a prepared statement and took no questions, but she called her experience "very stressful and challenging for me and for my family."

"I ask for my privacy and for my family's privacy to be respected as I return to Texas and try to get back to a normal life and reunite with my dog Bentley," she said, drawing laughter with the mention of her 1-year-old King Charles spaniel. Bentley has been in quarantine since Pham's diagnosis but has tested negative for the virus.

Pham is one of two nurses in Dallas who became infected with Ebola while treating Thomas Eric Duncan, who traveled to the United States from Liberia and died of the virus Oct. 8. The second nurse, Amber Vinson, is being treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, which on Friday issued a statement saying she "is making good progress" and that tests no longer detect virus in her blood. (AP)

10:10 P.M. U.S. considering quarantine for returning Ebola health workers

The Obama administration is considering quarantining healthcare workers returning to the United States from the Ebola hot zone of West Africa, after a New York doctor who treated Ebola patients there tested positive for the virus.

Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told Reuters on Friday that quarantine is among a number of options being discussed by officials from across the administration.

"We want to strike the right balance of doing what is best to protect the public's health while not impeding whatsoever our ability to combat the epidemic in West Africa. Our risk here will not be zero until we stop the epidemic there."

Current policy calls for returning healthcare workers and military personnel to be monitored for Ebola symptoms during the virus's maximum 21-day incubation period. But lawmakers have expressed concern that those being monitored are also able to resume normal routines, potentially placing members of the public at risk for infection.

"Whatever option we come up with just simply can't hamper ability to respond to the situation in West Africa. Because as long as that's going on over there, our risk will never be zero," Skinner said. (Reuters)

9:20 P.M. Mali Ebola patient travelled while contagious, WHO says

The World Health Organization said on Friday the first confirmed Ebola patient in Mali had travelled by bus through the country while showing symptoms and there had been multiple opportunities for exposure involving many people.

The WHO also called on Mali to accelerate the completion of an isolation facility in the capita, Bamako, and keep the public informed of the situation as it evolves.(Reuters)

4:40 P.M. WHO expects around 200,000 Ebola vaccine doses by mid-2015

The World Health Organization set out plans on Friday for speeding up development and deployment of experimental Ebola vaccines, saying hundreds of thousands of doses should be ready for use in West Africa by the middle of 2015.

The Geneva-based United Nations health agency confirmed that two leading vaccine candidates are in human clinical trials, and said another five experimental vaccines were also being developed and would begin clinical trials next year.

"Before the end of the first half of 2015 ... we could have available a few hundred thousand doses. That could be 200,000, it could be less or could be more," the WHO's Marie-Paule Kieny told reporters after a meeting in Geneva of industry executives, global health experts, drug regulators and funders. (Reuters)

12:53 P.M. EU leaders agree to raise Ebola aid budget to 1 bln euros

European Union leaders agreed on Friday to roughly double their financial support for efforts to fight the deadly Ebola epidemic in Africa to 1 billion euros, the chairman of their Brussels summit, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, said.

"EU will increase financial help to 1 billion euros to fight Ebola in West Africa," he said in a Twitter messsage. Total contributions from the 28 nations had been running at about 500 million euros ($630 million) and there had been criticism that the wealthy Europeans were not doing more. (Reuters) 

12:33 P.M. WHO sending Ebola experts to Mali, 43 people monitored for virus

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday it was sending experts to help Mali fight Ebola, a day after the first case of the disease was confirmed there. 

Authorities said on Thursday a two-year-old girl was infected - making Mali the sixth West African country to be touched by the worst outbreak on record of the hemorrhagic fever, which has killed nearly 4,900 people.

A WHO team of three experts has been in Mali evaluating its defenses, and at least four more would set off over the next few days, WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said.

Malian authorities are monitoring 43 people who have been in contact with the girl, including 10 health workers, she told a news briefing. (Reuters) 

5:59 A.M. New York doctor with Ebola went through advanced screening upon arrival at JFK airport

The doctor who has been diagnosed with Ebola in New York City arrived at John F. Kennedy International airport on Oct. 17 and went through the ramped-up screening for travelers from the worst-hit West African countries, officials said on Thursday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said the patient, who had worked with Ebola patients in Guinea, "participated in the enhanced screening for all returning travelers from these countries" on his arrival at JFK.

This referred to special screening introduced earlier this month at five major U.S. airports - including JFK - for travelers coming from the three countries in West Africa worst hit by Ebola: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The doctor "went through multiple layers of screening and did not have a fever or other symptoms of illness," the CDC added in a statement. The CDC did not name the patient, but he was identified by other officials as Dr. Craig Spencer. (Reuters) 

5:15 A.M. One of three people who were in close contact with New York Ebola patient is in the hospital

One of three people who were in close contact with a New York doctor who has Ebola is in the hospital, New York City Health Commissioner Mary Travis Bassett said on Thursday.

Dr. Craig Spencer, who worked in West Africa with Ebola patients, tested positive for Ebola and was in isolation at Bellevue Hospital.  (Reuters)

3:47 A.M. New York City physician tests positive for Ebola

A physician with Doctors without Borders who recently returned from West Africa has tested positive for Ebola, the New York Times reported on Thursday.

The doctor, identified as Craig Spencer, was working for the humanitarian organization in Guinea, one of three West African nations hardest hit by Ebola.

The New York Times said Spencer was placed in isolation at Bellevue Hospital and that a further test would be performed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to confirm the finding.

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said earlier it was tracing all of the patient's contacts to identify anyone who may be at potential risk.

"It is our understanding very few people were in direct contact with him," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference. "Every protocol has been followed." (Reuters) 

1:30 A.M. Britain pledges additional 100 million euros to fight Ebola

British Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged a further 100 million euros (131 million dollars) to the fight against the Ebola epidemic, a government spokesman says.

"The funding will be used to roll out Ebola care units in Sierra Leone, to invest in the United Nations trust fund and to improve the burials process in Sierra Leone," the spokesman says.

The additional money, announced at a European Union summit in Brussels, comes on top of 156 million euros already pledged by London to fight the disease. (DPA)

12:46 A.M. Harlem doctor tested for Ebola had direct contact with very few people

The doctor being tested for Ebola at a New York City hospital had direct contact with very few people, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday.

"Our understanding is that very few people were in direct contact with him," the mayor said of the patient at Bellevue Hospital, identified as Dr. Craig Spencer of Harlem. (Reuters) 

12:23 A.M. First case of Ebola confirmed in Mali 

Mali's health minister says the West African country has confirmed its first case of Ebola.

The announcement made on Malian state television Thursday evening by Ousmane Kone said that the patient was a 2-year-old girl who had come from neighboring Guinea.

The child was brought to a hospital in the Malian town of Kayes on Wednesday, and her blood sample tested positive for the virus.

Mali becomes the sixth West African country to report an Ebola case — though nearly all the cases and deaths have occurred in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. (Reuters)

12:22 A.M. Authorities may evacuate Harlem apartment building where potential Ebola patient lived. (Reuters)

12:13 A.M. Patient being tested for Ebola in New York City identified as Dr. Craig Spencer from Harlem. (Reuters)