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Obama Taps Ron Klain as New Ebola Czar; Death Toll at 4,555

  • VOA News

FILE - Ron Klain, new Ebola Czar appointed by President Obama.

FILE - Ron Klain, new Ebola Czar appointed by President Obama.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday named a former White House official as Ebola "czar" to coordinate U.S. efforts to fight the virus.

The White House said Ron Klain, a former top aide to two vice presidents, will take the role. Obama had mentioned the possibility of an Ebola czar on Thursday, when he authorized additional military forces to help with containment efforts in West Africa.

President Barack Obama speaks to media with U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell (L) and Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Thomas Frieden (R) after meeting with his team coordinating the government's Ebola response in the Oval Office, October 16, 2014.

President Barack Obama speaks to media with U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell (L) and Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Thomas Frieden (R) after meeting with his team coordinating the government's Ebola response in the Oval Office, October 16, 2014.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that U.S. health officials Friday said they have requested plans for producing the experimental Ebola drug ZMapp from three advanced biology laboratories.

The experimental anti-viral medication was given to a handful of medical workers after they contracted the Ebola virus but supplies of the drug have since run out.

Also Friday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told diplomats stationed in Washington that the international community must work together to resolve the Ebola crisis. He said barely a third of the $1 billion the U.N. says is needed to fight Ebola has been contributed.

Kerry warned that without more help, delivered quickly, Ebola will become a global crisis like polio.
U.S. lawmakers have been calling for a travel ban on the west African nations where the outbreak is centered. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday that the president is "not philosophically opposed" to such a ban, but added that it is not in the best interests of the American people at this point.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization says the number of deaths from the Ebola outbreak has reached 4,555, with the number of confirmed cases at nearly 9,200. New numbers released Friday show all but nine of the deaths occurring in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Earlier, the WHO declared the nation of Senegal to be Ebola-free, 42 days after officials there reported a lone case of Ebola in a man who had traveled from Guinea. But the U.N. agency warned that Senegal's location puts it at risk for further, imported cases of the disease.

On Thursday, the agency said it is sending teams to Ivory Coast and Mali to evaluate the countries' preparations to deal with the virus. The WHO also will increase coordination with an additional 13 at-risk countries in the region.

The Permanent Observer of the African Union to the United Nations told VOA the African Union does have a coordinated response to Ebola virus.

Ambassador Tete Antonio says the AU was one of the first organizations to decide to disperse money to the countries in Africa affected by Ebola. He said the organization has since released more money to help fund efforts in the fight against Ebola on the African continent.

Antonio said the African Union also organized a meeting of the ministers of health in Africa. And he said the organization put together a meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council, which decided to deploy an AU mission in West Africa.

Antonio says the Ebola virus "is no longer an African problem. It is a global problem" that affects everyone.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has reissued his appeal for contributions to fight Ebola. Member states have pledged just $20 million of the estimated $1 billion requested by December 1 to reduce the rate of transmission in West Africa.

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