Latest Updates / Obama Appoints ex-White House Official Ron Klain Ebola 'Czar'

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Health workers in protective suits stand near a window at an isolation ward on the sixth floor of Madrid's Carlos III Hospital, which is treating Ebola-hit nurse Teresa Romero Ramos, October 12, 2014.Credit: Reuters

Latest in-depth reporting from Haaretz: No, Ebola isn’t the ‘most severe health crisis,’ expert says (Ruth Schuster) | Why caretakers are catching Ebola: They’re making mistakes (Ruth Schuster)

Click here for Thursday's updates on the Ebola outbreak

11:24 P.M. Woman monitored for Ebola falls ill in Dallas transit station

A woman who was being monitored for possible exposure to the Ebola virus was reported falling ill at a Dallas transit station, a local television station reported on its website on Saturday.

The woman had a low-grade fever at a Dallas Area Rapid Transit station in Northeast Dallas, WFAA said, quoting a DART spokesman.

DART closed White Rock Station until further notice, and Dallas hazardous materials teams were dispatched there, it said. (Reuters) 

11:23 P.M. Dallas hospital launches PR campaign to restore image after Ebola infections

The Texas hospital accused of mishandling care for the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the U.S. is hitting back at critics with an aggressive public relations campaign aimed at rehabilitating its battered image. Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where a Liberian man was treated for Ebola and later died and where two nurses have been infected with the virus, has weathered intense criticism from the public, healthcare workers and politicians over what have been characterized as lax safety protocols.

But on Thursday night, the hospital issued a strongly worded statement that says workers followed proper safety protocols and shifts some blame to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "The CDC guidelines changed frequently, and those changes were frustrating to them (health workers) and to management. Nonetheless, they endeavored to remain compliant with what was communicated as the most recent and appropriate guideline," the statement said. (Reuters)  

8:22 P.M. Obama appoints former White House official Ron Klain Ebola 'czar'

U.S. President Barack Obama has asked former White House official Ron Klain to coordinate the U.S. government's response to the Ebola outbreak, an administration official said on Friday.

Klain, a former chief of staff to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, will report to homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco and national security adviser Susan Rice, the official said.

"Klain, an attorney, comes to the job with strong management credentials, extensive federal government experience overseeing complex operations and good working relationships with leading members of Congress, as well as senior Obama administration officials, including the president," the official said.  

7:35 P.M. Health officials monitoring eight with close contact to Texas nurse on plane

Texas Governor Rick Perry said on Friday health officials are actively monitoring eight people who had close contact with an Ebola-infected nurse who flew to Ohio and back for a weekend trip to plan a wedding.

The eight passengers being actively monitored were in close proximity, within three feet (one meter), of Amber Joy Vinson, 29, on a flight to Dallas from Cleveland on Monday, and other Texans on the flight have been asked to self-monitor, Perry told a news conference at the state capitol. (Reuters) 

7:20 P.M. UN: We botched response to the Ebola outbreak (AP)

1:40 P.M. Two suspected Ebola cases in Spain test negative

Two of four people suspected of having Ebola and admitted to hospitals in Spain have tested negative in a first round of tests, officials said Friday.

The government's Ebola monitoring committee said on its official Twitter account that the two were a person who arrived on an Air France jet that was isolated at Madrid's airport Thursday and a person who traveled in the same ambulance used to hospitalize infected Spanish nursing assistant Teresa Romero on Oct. 6. Both had developed fevers. They will be tested a second time within 72 hours.

Two others, a missionary who came down with a fever after returning from Liberia and a Red Cross health worker who recently worked with Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, were also to be tested.

Health Ministry spokesman Fernando Simon said Romero's infection was almost under control and there was increasingly less reason to be worried.

Meanwhile, France's government announced Friday it is strengthening its anti-Ebola efforts even though no cases have been detected in the country.

The prime minister appointed a prominent doctor, Jean-Francois Delfraissy, as Ebola "czar" to coordinate France's international and national responses to the crisis. (AP)

4:20 A.M. Obama open to appointing Ebola 'czar,' opposes travel ban

U.S. President Barack Obama said he was considering appointing an Ebola "czar" to coordinate the fight against the virus in the United States, but he remained opposed to a ban on travel from West Africa.

Obama's administration is facing sharp criticism from lawmakers over its efforts to contain the disease at home. Obama authorized calling up military reservists for the U.S. fight against Ebola in West Africa on Thursday.

U.S. concerns have intensified after two Texas nurses who cared for a dying Liberian patient contracted the virus that has killed nearly 4,500 people. Spain is also grappling with the spread of the disease, with four new patients with suspected Ebola symptoms admitted to hospitals.

The disease continues to spread in West Africa where the outbreak began in March, and reached the last remaining district in Sierra Leone that had not been affected by Ebola.

U.S. lawmakers held a congressional hearing about the administration's handling of the Ebola outbreak in the United States. Some have called for a czar and a ban on travel from West Africa.

"It may be appropriate for me to appoint an additional person" to oversee efforts to contain Ebola, Obama told reporters after meeting aides involved in the fight against the disease.

Obama said experts have told him "a flat-out travel ban is not the way to go" because current screening measures at airports are working.

He said he had no philosophical objection to a travel ban but that some travelers might attempt to enter the United States by avoiding screening measures, which could lead to more Ebola cases, not fewer.

Jamaica announced an immediate travel ban on Thursday. South America's Guyana said it has denied entry to citizens from four Ebola-hit West African nations during the past five weeks.

U.S. Federal Aviation Administration chief Michael Huerta told reporters separately that the government was assessing whether to issue a travel ban "on a day-to-day basis."(Reuters)

4:14 A.M. First 540 of 4,000 US soldiers already in West Africa

The U.S. military is often called on to quickly deliver the massive, heavy-lift capacity of its fleet of cargo planes and helicopters to speed relief to humanitarian hotspots when natural disasters occur.

In response to the disaster of Ebola in West Africa, the U.S. already has 540 soldiers in the region, the vanguard of a force slated to reach at least 4,000 in the coming weeks.

"More keep coming every week," said Admiral John Kirby, Pentagon spokesman.
Britain, too, is mobilizing military resources to help fight the outbreak in West Africa.
The United States has contributed more than 156 million dollars to fighting Ebola and deployed more than 100 civilian medical workers to West Africa from the federal Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"The United States is obviously leading the way in terms of providing resources, equipment and mobilizing the world community," U.S. President Barack Obama said Thursday.

He has asked other world leaders to increase their pledges of equipment and personnel "to make sure that we're getting our workers on the ground" in West Africa.

"We've seen some progress in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, but we haven't seen enough," he told reporters at the White House. "We've got more work to do."

United Nations chief Ban ki-Moon on Thursday decried the lack of support by wealthy nations for the UN's 1-billion-dollar appeal for Ebola efforts.

2:45 A.M. UN: Ebola death toll rising to 4,500 this week

The death toll from Ebola will rise this week to more than 4,500 people from the 9,000 infected and the outbreak is still out of control in three West African nations, a top official with the U.N. health agency said Thursday.

Dr. Isabelle Nuttall, director of the World Health Organization's global capacities, alert and response, said new numbers show the outbreak is still hitting health workers hard despite precautions — with 427 medical workers infected and 236 dead — mainly because Ebola victims are most contagious around the time they die.

Nuttall said the focus of the world's efforts should remain on the countries where the outbreak has been spreading out of control: Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
"Our data shows that cases are doubling every four weeks. The disease is still widespread in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and there is persistent transmission of the virus," she told a news conference in Geneva.

Although the effects of the crisis are increasingly being felt beyond its epicenter in West Africa, until now two nurses in Dallas and a Madrid nursing assistant are the only ones known to have contracted Ebola outside the hot zone.

Nuttall said Ebola cases were growing in Guinea's capital of Conakry but problems with data-gathering in Liberia, which has a significant under-reporting of Ebola cases in Monrovia, the capital, make it hard to draw any conclusions there.

It will take months before the outbreak is stopped, she said, adding that WHO has identified 14 African countries where being prepared and containing Ebola is a top priority. Those countries are Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, South Sudan and Togo.

"They've been chosen because either they have land borders with the affected countries ... or they have high travel or trade routes," Nuttall said. (AP)

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