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Obama Phones Ebola Fighters in West Africa

President Barack Obama turns to shake hands with Dr. Kent Brantly, 33, an Ebola survivor, after speaking at a White House event with American health care workers fighting Ebola, Oct. 29, 2014.

President Barack Obama spoke by telephone Saturday with U.S. forces working to fight Ebola in Liberia and Senegal.

The White House said Obama thanked the men and women providing logistics support, engineering expertise, construction services and other elements needed to bring the epidemic under control.

A statement said Obama stressed that the civilian-led, whole-of-government strategy to tackle Ebola on the front lines was the most effective way to prevent further spread of the disease and protect the American people from additional cases at home.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Meanwhile, Canada said it would suspend issuing visas to residents of countries experiencing what it called "widespread and persistent-intense transmission" of Ebola. The decision, announced Friday, is similar to a recent move by Australia.

In other developments, a leading U.S. newspaper said a seven-year-old girl in the northeastern state of Connecticut was allowed to return to her classroom after being barred from school because of fears she might have been exposed to the Ebola virus while visiting Africa.

The New York Times said Ikeoluwa Opayemi was allowed back into her school Friday in Milford, reversing the school system's earlier decision to keep her out of class for 21 days — the time it can take for symptoms of the disease to emerge.

The Times said the girl and her father had traveled to Nigeria in October for a family wedding, but there are no known Ebola patients in Nigeria.

Also Friday, a judge in the northeastern U.S. state of Maine ruled against a mandatory quarantine that the state had sought to impose on a nurse who returned from treating Ebola patients in West Africa.

The judge said Kaci Hickox was showing no signs of Ebola and was free to travel but must notify health officials immediately if her health situation changes. She said the quarantine violated her civil rights.

Ebola Cases and Deaths as of October 23, 2014
Ebola Cases and Deaths as of October 23, 2014

The World Health Organization said the death toll from Ebola has risen to 4,951, with most of the deaths in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The agency slightly lowered the number of overall Ebola cases to 13,567, mainly because some suspected cases in Guinea had been shown to be false.

Ebola is spread through contact with an infected person's bodily fluids. The virus causes fever, bleeding, vomiting and diarrhea.

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