Latest Updates / WHO Won't Discuss Ebola Mistakes Document

Castro: Cuba would cooperate with U.S. vs. Ebola; Paris airport begins Ebola screening; Obama: Ebola travel ban could make things worse.

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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) | Israelis on the front lines of Ebola (Ido Efrati)

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Click here for Friday's updates on the Ebola outbreak

11:30 P.M. A memorial service was held on Saturday for the first U.S. Ebola victimThomas Eric Duncan, who died in Dallas on October 8.

7:30 P.M. WHO won't discuss Ebola mistakes document

 The World Health Organization said Saturday that it wouldn't explain details contained in an internal document obtained by The Associated Press in which the UN health agency said it fumbled early attempts to contain the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

In the draft document, which wasn't released publicly, WHO blamed numerous factors for the now explosive Ebola epidemic, including incompetent staff, bureaucracy and a lack of reliable information.

"WHO will not do interviews or explain details on this document until it is completed," the health agency said in a statement Saturday. "WHO believes in transparency and accountability and will release this review when it is fact-checked."

So far, Ebola has been blamed for 4,546 deaths in West Africa out of at least 9,191 cases. WHO estimated that there could be 10,000 cases every week by December unless stronger measures are enacted to fight the outbreak.

WHO said in the draft document that "nearly everyone" involved in the response to Ebola failed to notice factors that turned the outbreak into the biggest-ever on record.

7:23 P.M. Canada to ship experimental Ebola vaccine to WHO

The Canadian government will ship 800 vials of its experimental Ebola vaccine to the World Health Organization in Geneva beginning on Monday, the Public Health Agency of Canada said on Saturday.

The WHO, in consultation with health authorities in the countries most affected by the outbreak of the disease, will decide on how the vaccine will be distributed and used, the agency said in a statement.

The vaccine is undergoing clinical trials at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in the United States, it said. (Reuters)

6:40 P.M. Castro: Cuba would cooperate with U.S. against Ebola

Fidel Castro says Cuba is ready to cooperate with the United States in the battle against Ebola.

The 88-year-old ex-leader writes in state news media on Saturday that cooperation would be in the interest of "the peace of the world."

Cuba has already sent 165 doctors and nurses to help fight Ebola in Sierra Leone and it plans to send 296 others soon to Liberia and Guinea. That effort has brought unusual praise from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is sending hundreds of soldiers as well as health care workers to aid in efforts to control the disease.

Cuban officials say they will try to organize more aid for the afflicted West African countries at a meeting with Cuban allies and international health organizations on Monday. (AP)

4:10 P.M. Paris airport begins Ebola screening as West urged to do more

French health authorities on Saturday began screening passengers arriving from Guinea in West Africa for symptoms of Ebola, amid growing fears over the spread of the virus and warnings about its impact on the global economy.

Passengers arriving at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport early Saturday from Guinea's capital Conakry found doctors waiting at the end of the jetway to take their temperature with infrared thermometers.

Fever is one of the symptoms of Ebola, which has killed 4,555 people in seven countries, according to the latest World Health Organization data. Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have reported 4,546 of those deaths.

Of the three worst-hit countries, Guinea is the only one with which France has maintained direct air links.

France is not the first country to introduce Ebola screening at airports. London's Heathrow Airport began this week screening passengers arriving from West Africa for the virus. Canada and the United States had already introduced similar controls.

Neither France nor Britain has had a local case of infection yet. A French nurse who contracted Ebola while volunteering with the international medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres in Liberia made a full recovery after treatment in a Paris hospital.

In the U.S., two nurses at a Dallas, Texas, hospital where a Liberian man died of Ebola, contracted the virus. A Spanish nurse who treated a missionary in Madrid for the disease also became infected.

In his weekly address Saturday, U.S. President Barack Obama said: "This is a serious disease, but we can't give in to hysteria or fear because that only makes it harder to get people the accurate information they need. We have to be guided by the science."

He pledged more support in the fight against the spread of the virus, but also said that "we can't just cut ourselves off from West Africa, where this disease is raging ... Trying to seal off an entire region of the world - if that were even possible - could actually make the situation worse."

Aid organizations have appealed to Western countries to show as much concern for Africans trapped by the epidemic as the relatively small threat to their own borders.

Leaders of the European Union are to discuss the crisis at a summit in Brussels next week.

In a letter to EU President Herman Van Rompuy published Saturday, British Prime Minister David Cameron called on the leaders to agree to an ambitious package of measures to tackle the epidemic.

"If we do not significantly step up our collective response now, the loss of life and damage to the political, economic and social fabric of the region will be substantial and the threat posed to our citizens will also grow," Cameron wrote.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim warned of the economic cost of inaction.

"I still don't think the world has understood what the possible downside risk is, not just to the West African economy but to the global economy," he said in Paris on Friday. (DPA)

1:05 P.M. Obama says Ebola travel ban could make things worse

President Barack Obama on Saturday urged Americans to avoid hysteria over Ebola, and played down the idea of travel bans from Ebola-ravaged countries in West Africa, explaining that restrictions could make things worse.

Lawmakers this week urged Obama to bar people from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea from entering the United States. Obama has said he is not philosophically opposed to travel bans, but in his weekly address made it clear that he is not leaning toward them.

"We can't just cut ourselves off from West Africa," Obama said, explaining it would make it harder to move health workers and supplies into the region, and would motivate people trying to get out the region to evade screening, making it harder to track cases.

"Trying to seal off an entire region of the world - if that were even possible - could actually make the situation worse," he said. (Reuters)

4:41 A.M. White House, Texas name officials to coordinate Dallas Ebola response

President Barack Obama and Texas Governor Rick Perry late on Friday named three officials who will help coordinate efforts to identify and monitor people who came into contact with three people diagnosed with the Ebola virus in Dallas, a White House official said.

Perry has chosen W. Nim Kidd, chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, to coordinate state-level assets in the Dallas response, the official said. Kevin Hannes, an experienced federal officer with the Federal Emergency Management Agency who works in north Texas, has been named as Kidd's federal counterpart.

The White House also will send Adrian Saenz, Obama's deputy director of intergovernmental affairs, to Dallas to serve as a liaison for Ron Klain, who Obama named as his overall Ebola coordinator on Friday. (Reuters) 

4:37 A.M. American and Cuban troops could work side-by-side fighting Ebola

Cuban doctors and U.S. military personnel could work side-by-side in West Africa as part of international efforts to contain the Ebola outbreak, possibly leading to improved bilateral relations, a top Cuban health official said on Friday. The two long-time adversaries are among the countries aiding West Africa, where Ebola has killed some 4,546 people since the outbreak of the hemorrhagic fever began there in March.

Cuba is sending the largest medical contingent to West Africa from any country in the world: 165 doctors and nurses are in Sierra Leone and another 296 are scheduled to depart for Liberia and Guinea next week. The United States is sending 3,000 military engineers, medical personnel and other troops to the region.

"We are going to work side by side ... with anybody who is there, and our health minister said in his speech that includes the Americans," Jorge Perez, director of the tropical disease hospital where Cuban doctors train for their Ebola mission, told reporters on Friday. "Why wouldn't we if we are scientists? In this instance we are friends," Perez said. (Reuters) 

3:55 A.M. White House beefs up federal staff in Dallas to help Ebola response 

President Barack Obama on Friday decided to send senior personnel to help federal, state and local officials in Dallas grappling with the effort to identify and monitor who came into contact with three people diagnosed with the Ebola virus, the White House said.

An "experienced" coordinator from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be named in Dallas to help federal assistance meet urgent needs, and a White House liaison also will serve on the ground in Dallas, the White House said.

The names of the individuals were not immediately provided. Obama made the decision at a meeting on Friday afternoon with his top national security and health advisers, the third consecutive day he has convened officials to discuss what has become a major political issue for his administration. (Reuters) 

Friday night

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.