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US Considering Additional Ebola Screening at Airports

  • Luis Ramirez

An ambulance transports Ashoka Mukpo, who contracted Ebola while working in Liberia, to the Nebraska Medical Center's specialized isolation unit in Omaha, Nebraska, Oct. 6, 2014.

An ambulance transports Ashoka Mukpo, who contracted Ebola while working in Liberia, to the Nebraska Medical Center's specialized isolation unit in Omaha, Nebraska, Oct. 6, 2014.

President Barack Obama says the United States is considering additional measures to screen passengers for Ebola. The measures would be taken at airports both in West Africa and at U.S. points of entry.

As authorities in the southwestern state of Texas deal with the only known Ebola case on U.S. soil, President Obama called a meeting Monday with Cabinet members and other top officials of the team he has set up to stop the outbreak.

The U.S. leader said that in addition to launching a campaign to educate American health workers on how to deal with the disease, the team is looking at new measures to screen passengers traveling from West Africa to the United States.

“We’re also going to be working on protocols to do additional passenger screening both at the source and here in the United States," said President Obama.

U.S. officials are not considering a travel ban. They say imposing one would hinder the delivery of medical supplies and equipment to the stricken regions of West Africa, because it is commercial carriers that transport most of the shipments.

Despite the one case in Texas, Obama said the chance of an outbreak in the United States is extremely low. But he indicated it is in the best interest of Americans to stop the disease at its source in West Africa.

“As we speak, there are children on the streets, dying of this disease - thousands of them. And so, obviously my first job is to make sure that we’re taking care of the American people, but we have a larger role than that," said Obama.

President Obama said progress is being made against Ebola, but he said many larger nations that could do more are not doing enough.
He said he plans to step up his calls for members of the international community to boost their donations and personnel.

An American journalist diagnosed in Liberia with the Ebola virus has returned to the United States for treatment.

Ashoka Mukpo is in an isolation unit at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska, where a spokesman said his condition is being evaluated to determine the course of his treatment.

At a news conference Monday a hospital official said Mukpo walked off an airplane under his own power and was wheeled into the hospital on a gurney.

Another hospital official said the patient is suffering from fever and nausea and his symptoms have not changed significantly in the past 24 hours.

Mukpo is receiving treatment at the Nebraska Medical Center’s specialized isolation unit, the largest of four such facilities in the United States.

The freelance photojournalist is the fifth American diagnosed with the Ebola virus.

A Spanish nurse who helped treat an Ebola patient at a Madrid hospital has contracted the virus, becoming the first person to become infected outside West Africa.

Spanish health officials Monday said the nurse was part of the medical team that treated a 69-year-old Spanish priest who died in a hospital last month after being flown back from Sierra Leone.

On assignment in Liberia

Mukpo was on assignment in Liberia for NBC News when he tested positive for Ebola last week and was sent back to the United States on a specially equipped plane.

Another American who contracted Ebola in Liberia, Dr. Rick Sacra, was the first patient with Ebola treated and released at the Nebraska facility last month.

Sacra was treated successfully for Ebola in Nebraska and discharged on September 25. However, he was rehospitalized over the weekend in Worcester, Massachusetts, after being admitted on Saturday for what appeared to be a respiratory infection.

He was released on Monday after being treated for the respiratory infection.

In critical condition

Liberian national Thomas Duncan, the first reported Ebola patient in the U.S., remained in critical condition on Monday at a hospital in Dallas, Texas. He has been hospitalized since September 28.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said health officials were closely monitoring 10 people who had direct contact with Duncan and are considered at greatest risk.

Frieden said so far none has shown any symptoms.

Texas Governor Rick Perry said at a news conference on Monday that he is establishing a team of physicians and health care experts to deal with infectious diseases.

The head of the Texas team, Dr. Brett Giroir, said, “We live in an interconnected world, where an outbreak anywhere is a risk everywhere."

Ebola has taken about 3,500 lives in West Africa since the outbreak began last year. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are the hardest-hit countries.

Some material for this report came from AP and Reuters.

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