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US Sets New Ebola Protocols for Health Workers

  • VOA News

The United States has tightened guidelines for health workers treating patients with the Ebola virus, calling for new competency training, a buddy system for donning and doffing personal protective equipment, and total coverage of eyes, hair and skin.

The stricter protocols, issued Monday evening by the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), build on earlier guidance from the World Health Organization. The WHO has advised health workers to wear masks, but did not require complete coverage of skin.

The developments come in the wake of at least three reported cases of Ebola in the United States. The virus has plagued West Africa, especially the countries countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, infecting more than 9,200 and killing more than 4,500.

Earlier Monday, the WHO declared Nigeria free of the virus, after going 42 days with no new reported Ebola infections. It has had 20 cases. WHO representative Rui Gama on Monday said Nigeria's development is a "spectacular success story."

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan issued a statement, praising Nigerians who worked to contain the disease, but also directed that all anti-Ebola measures remain in effect, including health screenings for people entering the country.

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Nigerian health minister Onyebuchi Chukwu attributed the country's success to strong leadership and coordination.

"Under a single leadership, all the contributing partners were molded into a single, almost homogeneous team. This is one factor that we believe may be lacking in the control efforts of other countries," Chukwu said.

Chukwu added that Nigeria may have won its battle, but the global war on Ebola is not over.

Nigeria reported 20 cases of Ebola and eight deaths as part of the worst-ever outbreak of Ebola, which has killed more than 4,500 people in West Africa.

Last week, the WHO also declared Senegal Ebola-free.

Separately, a United Nations spokesman said a staff member from U.N. Women in Sierra Leone died of Ebola in recent days, and the victim's spouse is getting treatment.

Meanwhile, in Dallas, Texas, officials announced the 21-day quarantine had been lifted on 43 people who had contact with the state's first Ebola patient, Liberian native Thomas Eric Duncan.

But Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said 120 other people are being watched for signs of the virus after having contact with one of the two nurses infected while caring for Duncan.

Also in the United States, health workers at a special Ebola treatment unit in the eastern city of Atlanta, Georgia, said another patient has recovered from the virus. The unidentified man was infected with Ebola while in Sierra Leone and was airlifted to Atlanta.

State Department sends personnel

The U.S. State Department has sent 617 personnel in the Ebola-affected capitals of Monrovia, Liberia, and Dakar, Senegal, with plans to send 80 more people by Wednesday to aid with the crisis.

In another development, Cuban leader Raul Castro urged Latin American leaders at a summit in Havana to work together to fight Ebola. He said Cuba was willing to work with the United States on that effort.

"We believe that any politicization of this grave problem should be avoided," Castro said. "It diverts us from the fundamental objective, which is the help to face this epidemic in Africa and prevention in other regions."

In Luxembourg Monday, European Union officials met to discuss the effort to collect $1.2 billion to aid the West African fight against Ebola. In a statement, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton said European officials are considering naming a person to coordinate anti-Ebola efforts between the European Union, member states and the United Nations.

Separately, a United Nations spokesman said a staff member from U.N. Women in Sierra Leone died of Ebola in recent days. It was the third such reported death of a U.N. worker.

Quicker response

Meanwhile, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf called for long-term investment in the health care infrastructure in order to prevent a repeat of the outbreak.

In a Washington Post op-ed, Sirleaf said the international reaction was slow, allowing Ebola to spread in a way that overwhelmed her country's health system.

She said the steps being taken now, such as U.S. soldiers helping set up treatment centers, would not be needed if the health care system were able to quickly and effectively respond at the beginning stages of an outbreak.

Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone have been the hardest hit by the outbreak, with more than 9,100 cases of Ebola.

The outbreak has spread to areas outside of West Africa, including Spain, where authorities say a nurse who contracted Ebola while caring for two infected priests now appears to be free of the disease, and in the United States, which has reported three cases of Ebola.

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