Latest Updates / Cuba Invites U.S. to Cooperate on Ebola

WHO: Nigeria's Ebola outbreak is officially over ; China contributes $6 million in food aid for Ebola-affected countries; U.S. Ebola czar seeks to restore sense of White House control over Ebola crisis; Liberia president describes heavy cost of Ebola.

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Liberian health workers in Monrovia, Oct. 18, 2014. The Middle East's first suspected Ebola case, a Lebanese national, recently returned from West Africa.Credit: AFP
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Haaretz

Latest in-depth reporting from Haaretz: As Ebola spreads: Scientists working on new drugs to treat viruses (Asaf Shtull-Trauring) |  Israelis on the front lines of Ebola (Ido Efrati) | 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 Sunday's updates on the Ebola outbreak

Ron Klain, tasked by Barack Obama to run the U.S. government's response to the Ebola outbreak.Credit: AP

Latest updates:

9:45 P.M. U.S. Ebola 'czar' will not attend House hearing on Friday

The White House has informed a U.S. House of Representatives Committee that the newly appointed U.S. Ebola "czar" will not be available to testify later this week at a hearing examining the U.S. response to the deadly virus, a committee official said.

The official said that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee had invited Ron Klain, a veteran government policy adviser and political operative, to attend a Capitol Hill hearing on Friday.

However, the official said that the White House had informed the committee that Klain has not officially started his job and would not be able to attend. Administration officials said Klain is scheduled to officially start as Ebola "czar" on Wednesday.

The committee, chaired by California Republican Representative Darrell Issa, a frequent Obama critic, has also invited Dr. Nicole Lurie, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response within the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, to testify.

Lurie has confirmed that she will appear, the committee official said.

Also expected to appear at the hearing are representatives from the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security, two committee officials said. (Reuters) 

6:30 P.M. Cuba invites US to cooperate on Ebola

Cuban President Raul Castro says his country is willing to work with the United States in the fight against Ebola.

Castro said Monday that the world must avoid politicization of the effort. He spoke at a summit of the leftist alliance called ALBA, which includes several Latin American and Caribbean nations.

The meeting in Havana was called by the president of Venezuela with the stated objective of preventing the spread of Ebola took. Latin America and helping Africa fight the disease. Cuba is sending nearly 400 doctors to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, the largest contribution by any single country.

Castro said, "Cuba is willing to work shoulder to shoulder with all other countries, including the United States." (AP)

5:08 P.M. U.S. officials: 120 still on Ebola monitoring

Texas health officials say 120 people are still being monitored for possible infection with Ebola because they may have had contact with one of the three people who got the disease in Dallas.

Officials said Monday that 43 of 48 people on an original watch list had passed the 21-day incubation period for the viral disease and are now in the clear.

But others who cared for a Liberian man who died Oct. 8 at a Dallas hospital remain at risk, along with two nurses he infected there. Nov. 7 is when the wait period will end for all of those being monitored.

Health officials also say they were unaware that federal officials had allowed one of the nurses to fly the day before she was diagnosed with the deadly virus. (AP)

4:49 P.M. WHO: Nigeria's Ebola outbreak is officially over

Nigeria is free of Ebola, the World Health Organization declared Monday of a rare victory in the months-long battle against the fatal disease.

Nigeria's containment of Ebola is a "spectacular success story," WHO's director for Nigeria, Rui Gama Vaz, told a news conference in the capital, Abuja.

The disease came to Lagos, Africa's most populous city, through an airline passenger who had carried Ebola from Liberia to Nigeria. The July 23 announcement about the disease hitting Nigeria "rocked public health communities all around the world," the WHO said in a statement.

Many feared the worst in in an urban sprawl characterized by large populations living in crowded and unsanitary conditions in many slums. Lagos' population of about 21 million people is nearly the combined populations of the infected countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the statement said.

"The last thing anyone in the world wants to hear is the two words, 'Ebola' and 'Lagos,' in the same sentence," U.S. Consul General Jeffrey Hawkins noted at the time, saying the juxtaposition conjured up images of an "apocalyptic urban outbreak."

Instead, with swift coordination between state and federal health officials, the WHO and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and with ample financial and material resources from Nigeria's government, isolation wards were immediately constructed and, more slowly, designated Ebola treatment centers. (AP) Read the full article here.

12:57 P.M. EU nations working to find 1 billion euro to help fight Ebola in western Africa

European Union nations are working to find 1 billion euros to help fight Ebola in West Africa and seeking a common approach in dealing with the disease outbreak.

EU foreign ministers on Monday opened a week of talks so that their 28 leaders can agree by Friday on a package of measures which should include anything from financial aid to common repatriation procedures, treatment facilities on site and training for health workers.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said that the billion-euro fund was needed as soon as possible because "we've got a very short window to get on top of it and prevent the uncontrollable spread of the disease."

The Netherlands said it was preparing to send a frigate to the area to help out. (AP) 

12:55 P.M. South Korea to send doctors to Ebola-hit parts of western Africa

South Korea's foreign ministry says the country plans to send doctors, nurses and military officers to the Ebola-hit region in West Africa next month amid growing concerns over the outbreak. South Korea pledges to spend $5.6 million to help curb the virus.

Foreign Ministry official Seo Eun-ji said Monday that Seoul will send an advance team of government officials to Liberia or Sierra Leone in early November to plan for the safety of the South Korean medical workers. Medical personnel will be sent to one or both of the countries in mid-November, Seo said.

President Park Geun-hye revealed that South Korea would send medical workers to the Ebola-hit region last week in a meeting between Asian and European leaders in Milan. (AP) 

12:50 P.M. WHO: Nigeria declared free of Ebola after 42-day period with no new cases (Reuters)

8:53 A.M. Obama keeps flexible schedule as White House response to Ebola continues to evolve

President Barack Obama, rarely one to leave anything to chance, is keeping a flexible schedule this week as his administration's response to the Ebola scare continues to evolve.

The work-in-progress approach is a departure from the normal practice in which the president's schedule is previewed days in advance. The blank slate reflects the White House's attempt to stay nimble, leaving Obama room to maneuver amid a public health crisis that has been anything but predictable.

After waking up in his own bed Monday at his family's home in Chicago, Obama plans to vote early for the Nov. 4 midterm elections and attend a fundraiser for Democrats. How he'll spend the rest of the week is anyone's guess. (AP)

8:13 A.M. Ebola fears ease in Dallas as monitoring period passes

Ebola fears are starting to ease for some in Dallas as a monitoring period passes for those who had close contact with a victim of the disease, while a scare aboard a cruise ship has ended with the boat returning to port and a lab worker on board testing negative for the virus.

In Dallas, friends and relatives of the Liberian man who died Oct. 8 are on Monday free to leave the home where they have been confined for a 21-day incubation period to ensure that the chance of an Ebola infection has passed.

U.S. federal officials are meanwhile ramping up readiness to deal with future cases. A top government official says revised guidance instructs health workers treating Ebola patients to wear protective gear "with no skin showing." (AP)

8:02 A.M. China contributes $6 million to help stave off food shortages in Ebola-affected countries

China has contributed $6 million to the World Food Program to help stave off food shortages in countries worst affected by the Ebola virus.

The WFP announced Monday that the money will go to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the Ebola outbreak has led to widespread transport disruptions and higher food prices and caused some farmers to abandon their crops and livestock.

The donation will provide emergency rations for 300,000 people for one month, mainly rice, lentils and yellow peas.

It follows the dispatch of several planeloads of medical materials and aid teams from China to the three countries.

With the world's second-largest economy, China is beginning to make larger contributions to international aid efforts. Chinese companies are also among the largest investors in Africa. (AP)

7:01 A.M. U.S. Ebola czar seeks to soothe Americans' jitters, restore sense of control over Ebola crisis

U.S. Ebola czar Ron Klain faces a hefty to-do list when he begins his new role: soothe Americans' jitters about the virus, fix federal coordination with states, and restore a sense of control over the crisis that the White House had lost.

Klain, a former senior aide in two Democratic administrations who is known for his keen political antenna, also must smooth over tensions with lawmakers who are angry about the government's missteps and mixed messages.

Klain has been dismissed as a political operative by Republicans because he lacks a medical background.

But administration officials and his associates describe him as a problem solver who understands the levers of government and can ensure smoother coordination among an array of agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration. (Reuters)

10:26 P.M. Liberia president describes heavy cost of Ebola

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said Ebola has killed more than 2,000 people in her country and has brought it to "a standstill," noting that Liberia and two other badly hit countries were already weakened by years of war.

Appealing for more international help, Sirleaf described the devastating effects of Ebola in a "Letter to the World" that was broadcast Sunday by the BBC.

"Across West Africa, a generation of young people risk being lost to an economic catastrophe as harvests are missed, markets are shut and borders are closed," the Nobel Peace Prize laureate said. "The virus has been able to spread so rapidly because of the insufficient strength of the emergency, medical and military services that remain under-resourced." (AP)

10:07 P.M. Spain: Nurse clear of Ebola virus

Spain says a test has shown a nursing assistant who became infected with Ebola is now clear of all traces of the virus.

A blood test has revealed that Teresa Romero's immune system has eliminated the virus from her body, according to a statement released by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's office late Sunday.

Manuel Cuenca, microbiology director at Madrid's Carlos III health care complex, says a second test in the coming hours is needed to absolutely confirm Romero's recovery.

Romero, 44, had treated two patients who died of Ebola at Carlos III hospital. The first, Miguel Pajares, contracted the disease in Liberia and died on Aug. 12, despite having been treated with the experimental drug ZMapp. The second was Manuel Garcia Viejo who died, aged 69, on September 25. (AP) Read full article here

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