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US Doctor: Ebola Quarantine May Deter Volunteers


Health workers walk toward an area used for Ebola quarantine after they worked with Fanta Kone, 2, who died of the disease Friday at an Ebola virus center in Kayes, Mali.

A top U.S. medical official has warned that mandatory quarantines of health care workers returning from Ebola-affected parts of West Africa could discourage people from volunteering in the region.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN's State of the Union program Sunday that the best way to protect Americans is to stop the outbreak in Africa, and one of the best ways to do that is to help health workers who go there, rather than take measures that may "disincentivize them from going."

His comments follow new quarantine policies being imposed by three U.S. states.

New York, New Jersey and Illinois have imposed a mandatory three-week quarantine for anyone returning from West Africa who had exposure to Ebola patients.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie defended his state's quarantine, calling it necessary "to protect the public health of the people of New Jersey."

US ambassador to UN

Meanwhile U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power landed in Conakry, Guinea, on Sunday to see first-hand how the global response is failing to stop the deadly spread of Ebola in West Africa.

Power, who will also visit Liberia and Sierra Leone, said she hopes to gain a better understanding of which resources are missing so she can push other countries to offer more help.

The three West African countries are bearing the brunt of the worst outbreak of the hemorrhagic fever on record that the World Health Organization (WHO) says has killed nearly 5,000 people. A small number of cases have also been reported in Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Spain and the United States.

Ebola Cases and Deaths in West Africa as of October 19, 2014
Ebola Cases and Deaths in West Africa as of October 19, 2014

She told reporters on Saturday that the benefits of having first-hand knowledge of what is going on there far outweigh what she calls the "almost nonexistent risk."

A small number of cases have also been reported in Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Spain and the United States.

“We are not on track right now to bend the curve,” Power told Reuters. “I will take what I know and I learn and obviously provide it to President (Barack) Obama, who's got world leaders now on speed dial on this issue.

“Hopefully the more specific we can be in terms of what the requirements are and what other countries could usefully do, the more resources we can attract,” she said.

Lack of beds, medical staff

According to the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI), even if existing international commitments are met by December, there could be a shortage of over 6,000 beds across Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Nearly half of the beds currently planned in the three West African countries will lack the medical staff needed to support them, a study by former British prime minister Tony Blair's London-based development consultancy found.

AGI based its projections on the WHO's worst-case scenario, which foresees 10,000 new cases per week in December.

“The international community badly misjudged the impact of the Ebola epidemic in its first few months and is compounding that error by failing to act quickly enough now,” AGI's chief executive Nick Thompson said.

He called upon more countries to follow the examples of the United States, Britain and Cuba, which have deployed military and medical personnel to the region to bolster efforts to stop the epidemic at its source.

Power will visit Ebola coordination centers and meet with top government officials, U.S. health experts and military forces combating the disease.

Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are at the center of the Ebola crisis, which has killed nearly 5,000 of the more than 10,000 confirmed and suspected cases.

The WHO said the true numbers may be higher because many families have tried to treat patients at home.

Ebola diagnostic test

In another development, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized the use of two new diagnostic developed tests by an American firm that can detect Ebola in a blood or urine sample in about an hour, compared to the 24 to 48 hours required for current tests.

The FDA has been working with the Utah-based Bio-Fire to obtain the necessary performance data to grant the emergency authorization.

Also Saturday, the United Nations flew one metric ton of emergency relief supplies to Mali after it reported its first Ebola death.

A 2-year-old girl from Guinea died Friday in Mali, where she had gone for treatment.

The WHO said the girl arrived by bus and may have exposed others in Mali to the disease.

The World Food Program director for West Africa, Denise Brown, said speed is of the essence in the Ebola crisis.

Meanwhile, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has ordered a mandatory 21-day quarantine for so-called high-risk people arriving in the midwestern American state from Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone.

The order covers anyone who had direct contact with an Ebola patient.

Quinn said the protective measure is too important to be voluntary. The governors of New Jersey and New York have also ordered quarantines.

The 21-day period marks the Ebola virus incubation period.

President Obama urged Americans in his weekly Saturday radio address "to be guided by the facts, not fear" in the fight against Ebola. He again reminded Americans how difficult it is to catch the disease.

Someone has to come in direct contact with an infected patient's bodily fluids to contract Ebola.

Some material for this report came from Reuters.