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US scrambles to contain Ebola as doctor apologises

A police cordon in Tallmadge, Ohio, this week, where Ebola-infected nurse Amber Vinson stayed over the weekend
A police cordon in Tallmadge, Ohio, this week, where Ebola-infected nurse Amber Vinson stayed over the weekend

As the United States scrambled to shape a newly aggressive strategy to prevent any wider outbreak of Ebola on its own soil, the chief of the Dallas hospital where two nurses contracted the disease after treating a Liberian man before his death on 8 October apologised for mistakes made at the facility.

Questions continued to multiply over whether the US has the ability to shut down the disease within its own borders.

It emerged on Thursday that the second nurse to be diagnosed with the disease, Amber Vinson, took a commercial flight on Monday from Cleveland to Dallas even though she had called the Center for Disease Control beforehand to report she had a mild temperature of 99.5 degrees.

The CDC has since said she should not have been allowed on the flight.

President Barack Obama cancelled plans to travel outside Washington DC on political trips for the second day running as he monitored the response.

Meanwhile, officials in Connecticut said they had admitted a patient overnight who appeared to have Ebola-like symptoms, though no final diagnosis had been reached.

Testifying at a special hearing on Capitol Hill, Dr Daniel Varga, who leads the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, conceded that protective protocols were not properly implemented when Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan was first admitted.

He also said  the hospital had given some wrong information to the public. "Unfortunately, in our initial treatment of Mr Duncan, despite our best intentions and a highly skilled medical team, we made mistakes," he said.

"We did not correctly diagnose his symptoms as those of Ebola. We are deeply sorry."

Nurses and doctors were not required to wear full hazmat suits or protective shoe-wear for two days after Mr Duncan's admission; the patient was vomiting repeatedly and had severe diarrhoea.

Two cases of Ebola have now been reported in the US and Europe - the first times the virus has been contracted among health workers outside Africa
Two cases of Ebola have now been reported in the US and Europe - the first times the virus has been contracted among health workers outside Africa

The country's top health officials, he said, had been guilty of making "false assumptions" about the country's ability to respond.

That can "get you in a lot of trouble," he added.

On Wednesday, Mr Obama tried to reassure Americans that the chances of a bigger outbreak of Ebola in the US were "very, very low" and that he had instructed the CDC to take a more aggressive stance to stop it.

He also insisted that tackling the disease at its source in West Africa remained the priority.

Americans are nonetheless alarmed.

According to a new Ipsos/Reuters poll, four out of five said they were concerned about catching Ebola and almost half said they will avoid international travel.

Meanwhile, attempts have been made to contact every passenger on the Frontier Airlines plane boarded by Amber Vinson, the infected nurse.

The company said the aircraft had been taken out of service for an intensive cleaning and the crew put on paid leave pending the incubation time for the disease, which is 21 days.

By Tuesday night Ms Vinson had a far higher temperature and on Wednesday she was put in isolation at the Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

Dr Thomas Frieden, the head of the CDC, told the hearing that despite what has happened over recent days he remained confident that Ebola would not be a threat to the US

Topics:  ebola editors picks united states



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