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CDC Chief: Ebola Worst Outbreak Since AIDS


From left, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, Guinea's President Alpha Conde and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon address Ebola crisis during IMF-World Bank annual meetings in Washington, Oct. 9, 2014.
From left, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, Guinea's President Alpha Conde and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon address Ebola crisis during IMF-World Bank annual meetings in Washington, Oct. 9, 2014.

A top U.S. health official says Ebola is the biggest world health crisis since HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Thomas Frieden spoke Thursday at World Bank headquarters in Washington during a meeting on the Ebola outbreak that has crippled three West African nations and has been detected in several other countries.

Frieden, who leads the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, predicted the fight to wipe out the disease will be a long one because the virus keeps changing. He said the only outbreak he has seen resembling the current one is AIDS, and he added that the world community must work hard so this is not the next AIDS.

U.S. fears grow

Meanwhile, fears are growing in the United States about Ebola with about 200 airline cabin cleaners walking off the job in New York and some lawmakers demanding the government ban travelers from the West African countries hit hardest by the virus.

"The nation is frightened, and people are frightened of this disease,'' the U.S. cabinet secretary for health, Sylvia Burwell, said on Thursday, a day after the death in Texas of the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States.

As the government prepares to start screening passengers from West Africa for fever at five major airports over the next week, cleaners at New York's LaGuardia Airport on Thursday stopped work in protest over what they say is insufficient protection for workers whose jobs include cleaning up vomit and bathrooms.

The Ebola virus causes hemorrhagic fever and is spread through direct contact with body fluids from an infected person, who would suffer severe bouts of vomiting and diarrhea.

"We are always with feces and near garbage,'' Sharekul Islam, 20, whose job cleaning airplane cabins at New York's John F. Kennedy airport regularly exposes him exposes him to the type of waste and fluids that can transmit Ebola.

Twenty-three Republican and three Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed a letter to President Barack Obama asking the State Department to impose a travel ban and restrict visas issued to citizens of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

In the letter, dated Oct. 8, they also asked U.S. health and border control officials to consider quarantine for anyone who arrives from the affected nations after being exposed to Ebola until 21 days have passed, the period in which they would show signs of the illness.

It said the World Health Organization "is an organization of unelected bureaucrats and political appointees of foreign countries. It has no duty to protect the lives and well-being of Americans, as you do."

Separately in Washington, Republicans in the House agreed to release $700 million more to fight Ebola from the Defense Department's request to shift $1 billion in war funds, bringing the total so far to $750 million.

U.S. health officials, while answering questions about mistakes in the treatment of Liberian man Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas and overall preparedness for Ebola patients, have emphasized the need to tackle the virus at its source in West Africa.

Ban speaks out

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the world needs a "twentyfold resource mobilization" to deal with the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Ban spoke Thursday in Washington at the same World bank meeting as Frieden, a gathering that included high-level officials and the presidents of the hardest-hit nations -- Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone -- via videoconference.

Ban said a "surge in assistance" should include mobile labs, vehicles, helicopters, protective equipment, trained medical personnel, and medical evacuation capacities.

Airport Screening Sites
Airport Screening Sites

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim told the group that unless the Ebola virus outbreak is contained and stopped quickly, "nothing less than the future of Africa is at stake."

Kim said there is a critical need for more trained health care workers in the affected nations.

The WHO said Ebola has killed more than 230 health workers in West African this year.

Kim said participants in Thursday's meeting will discuss what concrete actions can be taken to help the affected nations speed up efforts to fight the epidemic and temper its long-term effects on the economy.

Australia case investigated

In Australia, a nurse is undergoing medical tests after showing possible signs of Ebola, as the international community continues efforts to limit the outbreak of the virus.

Queensland state chief health officer Jeanette Young said the 57-year-old woman developed a "low-grade fever" shortly after returning from Sierra Leone, where she was working with Ebola patients.

"She came back into the country, she was perfectly well at that time. She did not have any symptoms, she did not have a fever. So it's only since this morning that she's had a low-grade fever," Young said. "She has not been out in the community in Cairns. She has been at home, isolated in her own home, testing herself."

Test results are expected to be released Friday.

Young stressed that even if the woman does have Ebola, there is no reason for the public to be concerned about an outbreak.

Spanish nurse's condition worsens

The health of a Spanish nurse with Ebola worsened on Thursday and four other people were put into isolation in Madrid, while the country's government rejected claims its methods for dealing with the disease weren't working and blamed human error.

Romero, 44, is the first person to have contracted Ebola outside of Africa, after becoming infected by a Spanish priest repatriated from Africa with the disease.

In total seven people are in isolation, though only Romero has tested positive for Ebola.

The others include the nurse's husband and two doctors who cared for her. Three other people were released from the isolation unit late on Wednesday after testing negative.

A health official at the Carlos III Hospital where Romero is being treated said on Thursday: "Her clinical situation has deteriorated, but I can't give any more information due to the express wishes of the patient."

US, Britain screening

Enhanced screening for travelers from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone will begin Saturday at JFK International Airport in New York.

The screening measures will be introduced next week at four others -- Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta; Newark International Airport in Newark, New Jersey; O'Hare in Chicago; and Washington's Dulles Airport.

British officials said they will start enhanced screening of passengers arriving from West Africa at two London airports and the Eurostar train station while in Macedonia a suspected Ebola death of a British man was reported.

Macedonian hospital officials say the victim showed symptoms of Ebola, including fever, vomiting, and internal bleeding. Those who brought him to the hospital are in isolation and his Skopje hotel has been sealed off.

It is unclear if the man was in Africa before heading to Macedonia.

The WHO adjusted its number on Thursday for the total death toll in the West African Ebola outbreak, revising down its previous total by 14 after an adding error.

The WHO said 3,865 people had died by the end of Oct 5, not 3,879 as it said on Wednesday.

The figures represent the total of Ebola deaths notified by the countries hit by the virus, but the WHO says the figures are under-reported and the true totals are much higher.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters.

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