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US Ebola Fears Spread Faster Than Virus

US Fear Of Ebola Spreading Faster Than Virus
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VIDEO: Two U.S. nurses who treated a Liberian man diagnosed with Ebola have contracted the disease. Both were moved from the Dallas hospital where they caught the virus to special biohazard treatment centers. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on precautions, concerns and fears about Ebola in the U.S.

For Americans, Ebola started out as a disease in a far away continent, but then a man from Liberia died from Ebola in a Dallas hospital, and things changed.

Ebola was on American soil. Fears heightened, and they spiked even more when two nurses who treated that Ebola patient contracted the disease.

These new cases have prompted an epidemic of fear.

One of the nurses, Nina Pham, was transferred from a Dallas hospital to the clinical studies unit at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

Efforts to allay fears

A top official there, Dr. Anthony Fauci, sought to allay fears at a news conference Friday morning.

"We fully intend to have this patient walk out of this hospital. And we intend to do everything we can to make that happen," Fauci said.

The other nurse, Amber Vinson, has been moved to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.

Despite assurances from America's top doctors, more than 80 percent of Americans believe Ebola can be spread by many ways, including by sneezing and coughing. Those are the results of a new poll by Harvard University.

Infectious disease experts say the virus can only be spread by contact with bodily fluids from someone who has the disease.

The poll also shows that more than half of adults are concerned that there will be a large outbreak of Ebola inside the U.S. within the next 12 months.

Health-care workers concerned

Nurses and doctors are also raising their concerns.

Nurses' groups say they haven't been trained to care for Ebola patients and that they don't have proper equipment to protect them from catching the virus. Randi Weingarten heads one of the nurses unions.

"Frontline providers, who are key to containing Ebola, must have a voice and be involved in the development and implementation of plans," Weingarten said.

On Saturday, President Barack Obama used his weekly address to tell Americans keep the situation in perspective and not to give in to Ebola "hysteria or fear."

Many Americans are calling for a ban on travel to the U.S. from West African nations affected by Ebola until the virus is under control.

But that would prevent the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from screening and tracking these visitors. That's what CDC head Dr. Thomas Frieden, told a congressional hearing on Thursday.

"Borders can be porous. We won't be able to check them for fever when they leave. We won't be able to check them for fever when they arrive. When they arrive we wouldn't be able to impose quarantine," Frieden told members of a House subcommittee.

Still, a plane that one of the infected nurses flew on is now being disinfected and schools in Ohio and Texas closed their doors because some students or staff shared an airplane with the nurse, unnecessary procedures prompted by fear because experts say you can only get Ebola from a sick person's bodily fluids.