Category Archives: Economy

Quote of the day: America’s imperiled kids


From the abstract of a stunning new analysis published in JAMA Pediatrics:

Children account for 73.5 million Americans (24%), but 8% of federal expenditures. Data on health and health care indicate that child well-being in the United States has been in decline since the most recent recession. Childhood poverty has reached its highest level in 20 years, 1 in 4 children lives in a food-insecure household, 7 million children lack health insurance, a child is abused or neglected every 47 seconds, and 1 in 3 children is overweight or obese. Five children are killed daily by firearms, 1 in 5 experiences a mental disorder, racial/ethnic disparities continue to be extensive and pervasive, and major sequester cuts and underfunding of pediatric research have damaged our global leadership in biomedical research and hobbled economic growth.

Chart of the day II: Separate and very unequal


From MIT Technology Review. And click on it to enlarge:

BLOG Unequal

Quote of the day: American shale oil Ebola


It’s been a while since we’ve featured a dose of eloquent gloom from James Howard Kunstler’s wonderfully named blog Clusterfuck Nation, so here it is:

Did a few loose strands of Ebola seep into the organs and tissues of global finance last week? The US equity markets sure enough puked, the Nikkei bled out through its eyeballs, all the collagen melted out of Greek bonds, and treasuries bloated up grotesquely on a putrid stream of terrified “liquidity” that led two Federal Reserve proctologists to maunder about the possibility of a QE-4 laxative, out of which, in due time, will surely gush explosive bloody fluxes of deeper financial sickness.

The oil price fell on its face so hard it crashed through the floorboards. One particular idiot at NPR wrote that this means peak oil was a hoax (Predictions Of ‘Peak Oil’ Production Prove Slippery). I guess she didn’t notice that the junk financing associated with shale oil capex is also dissolving like the poor late Thomas Eric Duncan’s circulatory system. That is, expect a whole lot less drilling in the Bakken and the Eagle Ford in the months ahead, and a substantial fall in production. Unless the US government finds a back door to shovel money at shale (a possibility considering the crucial myth of “Saudi America” to Wall Street psychology), the investment will not be there for the relentless drilling and re-drilling. As other savants on the web have pointed out, it’s not so much that the world is awash in surplus oil as the world is a’glut in people too broke to buy oil. And anyway, the shale oil companies have never made a buck at any price on anything but the real estate shenanigans entailed in their racket, buying and selling leases and so forth, just more paper games. In short, there is plenty of reason to believe that the shale endeavor may founder altogether at $80-a-barrel.

Chart of the day: European deflation continues


From Eurostat [PDF]:

Mall för pressemeddelande

EbolaWatch: Scares, pols, meds, Africa


And more.

We begin with a video report that lends credence to suspicions we’ve long harbored. From CCTV America:

Ebola outbreaks associated with deforestation

Program notes:

Experts have been trying to figure out what’s behind the recent rise in Ebola cases. Some have turned to nature, specifically the trees, for a possible answer. Some scientists argue that the shrinking size of forests could put people in closer contact with disease carrying wildlife and that possibility is causing global concerns. For more on the impact of global deforestation, CCTV America interviewed Susanne Breitkopf, the Senior Political Advisor for Greenpeace International.

And next to two notable and sad instances of Ebolaphobia, first from FrontPageAfrica, a Liberian paper doing an exceptional job of covering the crisis:

Georgia U. Cancels FPA Newsroom Chief’s McGill Lectures Over Ebola

The University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia has rescinded the decision of the University’s journalism school Grady College to invite FrontPageAfrica newsroom editor Wade C. L. Williams for its McGill Lecture slated for October 22, 2014.

All was set for the trip as the college had already purchased a round trip plane ticket and made hotel reservations for the journalist’s visit when it was forced to cancel last minute to time because of fear she could get sick while visiting the US thereby exposing students to the deadly Ebola virus.

The McGill Lecture, which is free and open to the public is sponsored by the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and will be held October 22 at 4 p.m. in Room 250 of the Miller Learning Center but with a new speaker Antonio Mora, a prominent Hispanic journalist who is a two-time winner of the Peabody Award.

“I received a call from Georgia just days before my trip. A woman with a pleasant voice delicately told me that parents were panicking and the general public was against my coming to the university,” stated Williams in a blog post published days after the university reached the decision.

And the second incident, via the Star in Nairobi:

Parents in a British school threatens to pull children out over teachers trip to Kenya fearing Ebola

Parents from a British school have threatened to pull their children from school over a planned trip to Kenya by teachers for fear they will contract Ebola.

The Mirror reports that a 60-signature petition has been circulated at Berkeley Primary School in Crewe in Cheshire demanding that the two teachers planning the trip to Kenya for an exchange programme.

They want the teachers isolated for a three-week ebola incubation period.

But the alarm has baffled the school because Kenya is far away from the ebola danger zone of West Africa.

Now on to the gravely serious, first from the Independent:

Ebola outbreak could be ‘definitive humanitarian disaster of our generation’, warns Oxfam

Ebola is poised to become the “definitive humanitarian disaster of our generation”, Oxfam has warned, with more troops, funding and medical aid urgently needed to tackle the outbreak.

In an “extremely rare” move, the charity is calling for military intervention to provide logistical support across West Africa.

It says the world has less than two months to counter the spread of the deadly virus, which means addressing a “crippling shortfall” in military personnel.

Oxfam said troops are now “desperately needed” to build treatment centres, provide flights and offer engineering and logistical support. While Britain was leading the way in Europe’s response to the epidemic, it said countries which have failed to commit troops were “in danger of costing lives”.

Next, analysis from the Associated Press:

Mission Unaccomplished: Containing Ebola in Africa

Looking back, the mistakes are easy to see: Waiting too long, spending too little, relying on the wrong people, thinking small when they needed to think big. Many people, governments and agencies share the blame for failing to contain Ebola when it emerged in West Africa.

Now they share the herculean task of trying to end an epidemic that has sickened more than 9,000, killed more than 4,500, seeded cases in Europe and the United States, and is not even close to being controlled.

Many of the missteps are detailed in a draft of an internal World Health Organization report obtained by The Associated Press. It shows there was not one pivotal blunder that gave Ebola the upper hand, but a series of them that mounted.

Nearly every agency and government stumbled. Heavy criticism falls on the World Health Organization, where there was “a failure to see that conditions for explosive spread were present right at the start.”

WHO — the United Nations’ health agency — had some incompetent staff, let bureaucratic bungles delay people and money to fight the virus, and was hampered by budget cuts and the need to battle other diseases flaring around the world, the report says.

Al Jazeera English covers a reassessment:

WHO promises to review Ebola response

UN agency pledges to review its efforts to contain outbreak after internal document hints at its failings.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has promised to undertake and publish a full review of its handling of the Ebola crisis after a leaked document appeared to show the UN agency had failed to do enough to contain the epidemic.

The WHO said in a statement on Saturday that it would not comment on an internal draft document obtained and released by the Associated Press news agency, in which the organisation blamed incompetent staff, bureaucracy and a lack of reliable information for its allegedly slow and weak response to the outbreak that has reportedly killed more than 4,500 people since May.

“We cannot divert our limited resources from the urgent response to do a detailed analysis of the past response. That review will come, but only after this outbreak is over,” WHO said.

And the Associated Press covers te case that has Americans on edge:

Ebola lapses persisted for days at Dallas hospital

Just minutes after Thomas Eric Duncan arrived for a second time at the emergency room, the word is on his chart: “Ebola.” But despite all the warnings that the deadly virus could arrive unannounced at an American hospital, for days after the admission, his caregivers are vulnerable.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has pointed to lapses by the hospital in those initial days. And Duncan’s medical records show heightened protective measures as his illness advanced. But either because of a lag in implementing those steps or because they were still insufficient, scores of hospital staffers were put at risk, according to the records.

The hospital’s protective protocol was “insufficient,” said Dr. Joseph McCormick of the University of Texas School of Public Health, who was part of the CDC team that investigated the first recorded Ebola outbreak in 1976. “The gear was inadequate. The procedures in the room were inadequate.”

While Defense One covers a regulatory disaster:

Dallas Hospital Had the Ebola Screening Machine That the Military Is Using in Africa

The military is using an Ebola screening machine that could have diagnosed the Ebola cases in Texas far faster, but government guidelines prevent hospitals from using it to actually screen for Ebola.

It’s a toaster-sized box called FilmArray, produced by a company called BioFire, a subsidiary of bioMérieux and it’s capable of detecting Ebola with a high degree of confidence — in under an hour.

Incredibly, it was present at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas when Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan walked through the door, complaining of fever and he had just come from Liberia. Duncan was sent home, but even still, FDA guidelines prohibited the hospital from using the machine to screen for Ebola.

While the Guardian covers desperate ass-covering:

Texas hospital mounts ‘#PresbyProud’ fightback as Ebola criticism mounts

  • Dallas hospital where nurses were infected engages PR firm
  • Union chief says: ‘There has been no leadership’

The hospital in Texas where two nurses became the first people to contract Ebola inside the US is mounting an aggressive public relations campaign to rescue its image, as nursing representatives call for its top executives to be held accountable for the crisis.

Texas Health Presbyterian hospital in Dallas hired Burson-Marsteller, a New York-based PR firm, to direct a fightback against sharp criticism it received after Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who was first sent home by the hospital, died there from Ebola.

It has since published slick video clips of smiling nurses praising their managers and hosted a brief “rally” of medics wielding pro-hospital placards outside the emergency room for television news cameras. Amid fears patients might stay away, the hospital has tried to flood social media with the hashtag “#PresbyProud” and issued rebuttals to allegations about its practices after nurses Nina Pham and Amber Vinson were infected while treating Duncan, who died on 8 October.

From the New York Times, politics as usual, with a desperate edge:

The Partisan Divide on Ebola Preparedness

After a second case of Ebola was discovered among the staff of a Dallas hospital that treated an infected patient, public concerns are likely to increase about whether the United States health care system can properly respond to an outbreak.

Data from surveys suggest, however, that those views — like so many others — are being shaped by people’s partisan affilations as much as by news about the outbreak itself.

According to a new ABC News/Washington Post survey, only 54 percent of Republicans are confident in the federal government’s ability to respond effectively to Ebola — far fewer than the 76 percent of Democrats who expressed confidence. This finding represents a striking reversal from the partisan divide found in a question about a potential avian influenza outbreak in 2006, when a Republican, George W. Bush, was president. An ABC/Post poll taken at the time found that 72 percent of Republicans were confident in an effective federal response compared with only 52 percent of Democrats.

From the Washington Post, Obama urges:

Obama: ‘We can’t give in to hysteria or fear’ of Ebola

President Obama on Saturday sought to tamp down fears of an Ebola outbreak and defend his administration from Republican critics who have called for a more aggressive response to the disease, including sealing off U.S. borders to visitors from countries battling widespread outbreaks.

“We can’t just cut ourselves off from West Africa, where this disease is raging,” Obama said in his weekly radio address. “Trying to seal off an entire region of the world — if that were even possible — could actually make the situation worse.”

Such actions would make it harder for American health-care workers, soldiers and supplies to reach stricken areas, Obama said. It could also cause residents of countries in West Africa where Ebola is still spreading to try to evade screening on their way to the United States or Europe.

The president’s main message was one of calm, coming at a time of growing worry in communities throughout the country. “We can’t give in to hysteria or fear, because that only makes it harder to get people the accurate information they need,” Obama said. “If we’re guided by science — the facts, not fear — then I am absolutely confident we can prevent a serious outbreak here in the United States.”

From the White House, here’s the address:

Weekly Address: What You Need to Know About Ebola

Program notes:

In this week’s address, the President discussed what the United States is doing to respond to Ebola, both here at home and abroad, and the key facts Americans need to know.

Making a list and checking more than twice, via the Associated Press:

More than 100 monitored for Ebola symptoms in Ohio

Health officials in Ohio are monitoring more than 100 people following the visit by a Dallas nurse who tested positive for Ebola shortly after returning to Texas from the Cleveland area.

Officials said Saturday that none of those being monitored are sick.

State officials previously said 16 people Amber Vinson had contact with were being monitored. Officials say the sharp increase is a result of the identification of airline passengers who flew with Vinson between Dallas and Cleveland and the identification of people who also visited the dress shop where her bridesmaids were trying on dresses.

Vinson’s stepfather is quarantined in his home in the Akron suburb of Tallmadge. That is where Vinson stayed during her visit. The stepfather is the only person in the state under such a restriction.

Golden State preparations from the San Francisco Chronicle:

Gov. Jerry Brown says state is working on Ebola safeguards

Gov. Jerry Brown said Friday that the state is drawing up plans to protect nurses, other health care workers and the public from Ebola, saying California must avoid mistakes made in Texas in dealing with the disease.

The governor said he has met with public health officers and spoken with national nurses representatives to devise guidelines that hospitals must follow should an Ebola patient be diagnosed in California.

“We’ve got work to do,” Brown said in an interview with The Chronicle. “It’s a fast-moving story.”

He said Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the state Department of Public Health, is heading up the effort, and that health officials will meet with Cal/OSHA on Tuesday to discuss “issues of workers’ safety.”

From the Miami Herald, preparations in another state:

CDC responds to Florida’s requests for help with potential Ebola outbreak

The federal Centers for Disease Control agreed Saturday to some — but not all — of Gov. Rick Scott’s Ebola-related requests.

The CDC will hold a conference call with Florida hospitals next week on best practices, Scott said Saturday. The organization has also given Florida the green light to spend about $7 million in federal grant funding on protective suits for health care workers.

“The CDC indicated that we will receive formal approval next week, but based on this preliminary approval, we have already begun using these funds to enhance our Ebola preparedness efforts,” Scott said in a statement.

The governor is still waiting on the CDC to contact passengers on a plane that stopped in Fort Lauderdale after carrying a nurse who was later diagnosed with Ebola.

He also has yet to receive 27 of the 30 Ebola testing kits he requested.

From the Associated Press another oversight failure:

Ebola monitoring inconsistent as virus spread

The inconsistent response by health officials in monitoring and limiting the movement of health workers has been one of the critical blunders in the Ebola outbreak. Friends and family who had contact with Duncan before he was hospitalized were confined to homes under armed guard, but nurses who handled his contagious bodily fluids were allowed to treat other patients, take mass transit and get on airplanes.

“I don’t think the directions provided to people at first were as clear as they needed to be, and there have been changes in the instructions given to people over time,” said Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, a doctor who did his residency in Dallas.

Local health authorities have said repeatedly throughout the response that their guidance and direction can change.

“Please keep in mind the contact list is fluid, meaning people may fall off the list or new people may be added to the list depending on new information that could arise at any time on any given day,” said Dallas County health department spokeswoman Erikka Neroes on Friday when asked how many people are even being monitored.

From The Hill, a case where Republicans and businesses are on the outs:

Businesses quietly push back at Ebola travel ban

Businesses are pushing back against lawmakers’ calls to impose a ban on travelers from the three West Africa nations at the center of the Ebola epidemic.

Public opposition is coming from U.S. airlines, who have seen their stocks hit because of fears the Ebola scare will lead to a drop in travel.

Other business groups are quietly telling the White House to stand firm in opposing a ban.

They echo arguments from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that a ban would isolate Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, potentially making it tougher to slow the epidemic in those countries.

From the New York Times, the first of two stories of life in limbo:

Life in Quarantine for Ebola Exposure: 21 Days of Fear and Loathing

As the Ebola scare spreads from Texas to Ohio and beyond, the number of people who have locked themselves away — some under government orders, others voluntarily — has grown well beyond those who lived with and cared for Mr. Duncan before his death on Oct. 8. The discovery last week that two nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital here had caught the virus while treating Mr. Duncan extended concentric circles of fear to new sets of hospital workers and other contacts.

Officials in Texas said Thursday that nearly 100 health care workers would be asked to sign pledges not to use public transportation, go to public places or patronize shops and restaurants for 21 days, the maximum incubation period for Ebola. While not a mandate, the notices warn that violators “may be subject” to a state-ordered quarantine.

When officials revealed that one of the infected nurses had flown from Dallas to Cleveland and back before being hospitalized, nearly 300 fellow passengers and crew members faced decisions about whether to quarantine themselves. The next day, a lab technician who had begun a Caribbean cruise despite possible exposure was confined to a stateroom. Medical workers, missionaries and journalists returning from West Africa — especially from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where Ebola is rampant — are also staying home.

Dr. Howard Markel, who teaches the history of medicine at the University of Michigan, said the quarantines recalled the country’s distant epidemics of cholera, typhus and bubonic plague.

“Ebola is jerking us back to the 19th century,” he said. “It’s terrible. It’s isolating. It’s scary. You’re not connecting with other human beings, and you are fearful of a microbiologic time bomb ticking inside you.”

The second, from Bloomberg, covers another woe:

Ebola Fears Stymie Home Quest for Quarantined in Dallas

Louise Troh and the three other people in her household have spent much of their isolation on laptops and mobile phones, playing video games, tossing a football, speaking to relatives and reading the Bible.

The activities have been welcome diversions for Troh, her son and two young men she considers family — “the boys,” as she refers to her housemates. She’s the girlfriend of Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to die in the U.S. from Ebola.

When they are released from their 21-day, state-ordered quarantine on Oct. 20, they face an uncertain future in Dallas, owing to continued fears about their closeness to the deadly virus. A new-apartment deal busted up after Troh had already made a deposit, and Dallas’s top county official and Troh’s pastor say people are reluctant to rent to someone who was so close to Ebola.

From New York Times, another complication:

Waste From Ebola Poses Challenge to Hospitals

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assured the public this month that most American hospitals could treat cases of Ebola, it was technically correct. Hospitals routinely treat highly contagious diseases, and top-tier ones are extensively equipped to isolate patients who pose special risks.

But the infection over the past week of two Texas hospital workers betrayed what even many of the best hospitals lack: the ability to handle the tide of infectious waste that Ebola generates.

Ebola’s catastrophic course includes diarrhea, vomiting and hemorrhaging of blood, a combination difficult enough to contain in less-communicable illnesses. When they are highly contagious, disposing of the waste and cleaning up what is left behind require expertise and equipment that some specialists said are lacking even in highly regarded medical facilities.

Those shortcomings are compounded, they said, by surprising gaps in scientists’ knowledge about the Ebola virus itself, down to the time it can survive in different environments outside the body.

And from RT, an offer that’s bound to cause heartburn in Foggy Bottom:

Fidel Castro offers cooperation with US in fight against Ebola

Fidel Castro has expressed Cuba’s readiness to cooperate with the US in the global fight against Ebola. Cuba has been on the frontline of international response to the worst outbreak in the disease’s history.

In his article “Time of Duty,” which was published on Saturday, the retired Cuban leader said that medical staff trying to save lives are the best example of human solidarity. Fighting together against the epidemic can protect the people of Cuba, Latin America, and the US from the deadly virus, he added.

“We will gladly cooperate with American [medical] personnel in this task – not for the sake of peace between the two states which have been adversaries for many years, but for the sake of peace in the world,” wrote Castro.

And Sky News covers a plea for help:

Cameron Presses EU Leaders On Ebola Fund

  • The PM urges the EU to double its funding in the fight against the deadly virus, saying “much more must be done”

David Cameron has called for European Union leaders to double their contribution to help tackle ebola, demanding a combined 1bn euro (£800m) pledge.

The Prime Minister has written to the other 26 leaders and European Council president Herman van Rompuy calling for agreement to an “ambitious package of support” at a Brussels summit next week.

He made clear his frustration that other countries are failing to shoulder their share of the burden of international efforts to deal with the epidemic in West Africa which has killed more than 4,500.

Britain has committed £125m to its contribution – the second highest sum after the US. Downing Street said the total contribution from the EU is 500m euros (£400m).

After the jump, the travel industry enters a potential tailspin, cruise ship woes, French flight attendants demand an end to Paris/Conakry flights as France introduces airport screenings, ship screenings in Sweden, travel warnings in Cairo and confidence {SARS-inspired?] in China and a false alarm, a vaccine production delay, Canadian drugs dispatched, on to Africa and a chilling question, Kenyan doctors dispatched, on to Sierra Leone with food on the way, youth join the fight, a street battle with police over a corpse in the street, and an angry bureaucratic shakeup, on to Liberia an a construction shutdown, WHO offers a prescription, a plea for more aid and a promise from Washington, and a warning that things are worse than the press reports, a suicidal leap and an escape in Guinea as contagion spreads into a gold mining region, and from Nigeria, hope accompanied by a warning. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Warnings, pols, patients, Africa


We begin today’s collection of reports from around the world [with special emphasis on African media] with a fascinating video from USA Today:

Watch CDC Director’s language change on Ebola crisis

Program notes:

CDC Director, Dr. Thomas Frieden shifts his statements as the Ebola crisis deepens.

Another video, from Texas Health Resources, focusing on America’s first endogenous Ebola patient:

Nina Pham Speaks from Her Room at Texas Health Dallas

Program notes:

Before Nina Pham departed Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas for the National Institute of Health’s Clinical Center earlier today, she was visited by her treating physician, Dr. Gary Weinstein, who recorded his conversation with her before she was discharged. Ms. Pham asked that we share the video.

The latest from Dallas CBS affiliate KXAS:

Pham Transported to NIH in Maryland

Dallas nurse Nina Pham, the first person to contract the potentially deadly Ebola virus in the United States, appeared to be in good spirits in a rare, emotional video shot in her Dallas hospital room Thursday, just before she was flown to Maryland en route to the National Institutes of Health.

“Come to Maryland, everybody!” patient Nina Pham told Dr. Gary Weinstein and another health care worker treating her in the video, both of them wearing full protective suits, as the three of them became emotional. “I love you guys,” she said.

Pham, 26, was transported by ambulance Thursday afternoon from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital to Love Field Airport, where she was able to walk up the stairs into a private jet for the flight to Frederick Municipal Airport in Maryland.

She landed in Maryland just before 10 p.m. CDT for the ambulance ride to the National Institutes of Health.

And then there’s this from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Infected nurse’s quarantined dog may inspire Ebola pet protocols

Bentley, the dog owned by Ebola-stricken Texas nurse Nina Pham, is apparently thriving under quarantine – being fed, cared for and played with by Dallas workers in full protective gear.

In the process, the cute King Charles Spaniel has become a media phenomenon, with Twitter followers monitoring his progress through the city of Dallas feed @100Marilla.

His owner, who cared for the first U.S. Ebola victim at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, was transferred Thursday to the National Institutes of Health in Maryland.

But medical experts still are considering how to treat pets, as public concern about the Ebola virus explodes and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture prepare pet protocols.

The latest on the course of the epidemic from the Associated Press:

UN: Ebola death toll rising to 4,500 this week

The death toll from Ebola will rise this week to more than 4,500 people from the 9,000 infected and the outbreak is still out of control in three West African nations, a top official with the U.N. health agency said Thursday.

Dr. Isabelle Nuttall, director of the World Health Organization’s global capacities, alert and response, said new numbers show the outbreak is still hitting health workers hard despite precautions — with 427 medical workers infected and 236 dead — mainly because Ebola victims are most contagious around the time they die.

Nuttall said the focus of the world’s efforts should remain on the countries where the outbreak has been spreading out of control: Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

The Independent covers a parallel development:

Ebola outbreak: Famine approaches to add to West Africa’s torment

Sierra Leone’s fields are without farmers. Its crops go un-reaped. In the quarantine areas, feeding is patchy – some get food, others don’t. People then leave the enforced isolation in search of a meal, so Ebola spreads. In three West African countries where many already live a hand-to-mouth existence, the act of eating is increasingly rare.

Ebola, the virus that has ravaged Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea at an unprecedented rate, continues its devastating spread. The number of dead doubles with each passing month; the bodies unburied. More lives are devastated with each passing day.

And in the absence of a mass-produced vaccine, its treatment – enforced isolation, mass quarantines – now threatens to bring a new crisis: starvation.

Reassurance for some from BBC News:

Ebola crisis: WHO says major outbreak in West ‘unlikely’

Christopher Dye, WHO director of strategy, said the introduction of Ebola into the US or other countries in Western Europe was a matter “for very serious concern”

“The possibility that once an infection has been introduced that it spreads elsewhere, is something that everybody is going to be concerned about,” he said.

But he added: “We’re confident that in North America and Western Europe where health systems are very strong, that we’re unlikely to see a major outbreak in any of those places.”

And the Washington Post covers another side effect:

An epidemic of fear and anxiety hits Americans amid Ebola outbreak

Though Ebola’s dangers are real and terrifying, epidemiologists and other authorities say that, for now, its greatest mark could be on the psyche of the country where other health threats are more perilous.

President Obama late Wednesday sought to quell any risk of panic, telling the American people, “The dangers of your contracting Ebola, the dangers of a serious outbreak, are extraordinarily low.”

[A]ll over the country, Americans expressed deep anxiety about the threat of Ebola. According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, two-thirds of Americans are worried about an Ebola epidemic in the United States, and more than 4 in 10 are “very” or “somewhat worried” that they or a close family member might catch the virus.

And the perspective of Tom Toles, the Post’s editorial cartoonist:

BLOG Toles

More from Al Jazeera America:

In battling Ebola, fighting panic is as critical as containing virus

  • Allaying fears while urging vigilance is a unique challenge for public health officials

As U.S. public health officials and hospital workers race to help contain the global Ebola epidemic, they are confronting an equally pressing challenge at home: tamping down public hysteria.

Although the virus has wreaked havoc on West Africa, claiming more than 4,400 lives, according to the latest estimates by the World Health Organization, only three cases have been diagnosed in the United States. The disease is not airborne and can be spread only through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person who is exhibiting symptoms. Still, the news that a second health care worker was infected in Dallas after caring for an Ebola patient and allegations by nurses that the hospital where he was treated had sloppy protocols have added to unease across the United States.

“Ebola is serious. People are understandably afraid of what it means and what the implications are for them,” said Peter Jacobson, a professor of health law and policy at the University of Michigan. “At the same time, we have really excellent public health professionals who are able to communicate the extent of the threat, what we know and what we don’t know.”

Ebolaphobia rampant, via the New York Times:

As Ebola Fears Spread, Ohio and Texas Close Some Schools

An Ebola-infected nurse’s air travel between Dallas and Cleveland has sent ripples of concern through at least two states, leading to school closings and voluntary isolations.

Schools in Texas and Ohio were closed on Thursday after officials learned that students and an adult had either been on the flight with the nurse, Amber Joy Vinson, or had contact with her while she was visiting the Akron area.

Both Ms. Vinson and another nurse who contracted Ebola, Nina Pham, were part of the medical team that treated an Ebola patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Ms. Vinson traveled from Cleveland to Dallas the day before she showed symptoms of the disease.

In Akron, Ohio, officials dismissed students at the Resnik Community Learning Center at midday and said it would remain closed until Monday. In a letter to parents, the schools superintendent in Akron, David W. James, said that “a parent at the school had spent time with Ebola patient Amber Vinson when she visited the area this past weekend.”

Another manifestation from the Los Angeles Times:

‘No Ebola here,’ college says after evacuation spurs rumors, fears

The student whose flu-related comments led to a classroom building at Southwestern College in Chula Vista being evacuated Thursday does not have Ebola, a college spokeswoman said.

The student has a sister in the hospital with flu-like symptoms. The sister was not near any Ebola patient or on any airline flight that such a patient may have taken, said college spokeswoman Lillian Leopold.

Concern about a possible Ebola connection spread through rumor and social media faster than officials could confirm whether the student or a family member had been exposed to the deadly virus, Leopold said. Within minutes, local media were reporting a possible Ebola connection.

Southwestern College said in a statement that it had evacuated and cordoned off Building 470 as a precaution. Emergency personnel from the city of Chula Vista were at the scene, but San Diego County public health officials did not send a team.

And from CNN:

How worried is the Pentagon about Ebola? Creating special Ebola boot camp and updating pandemic plans

And then there’s this, via BuzzFeed:

GOP Senator: ISIS Using Ebola Is A “Real And Present Danger”

  • Asked whether the U.S. should be concerned about ISIS militants bringing Ebola into the country, Sen. Ron Johnson said we should do everything possible to prevent such a thing

A Republican senator says he sees the threat of ISIS militants intentionally infecting themselves with the Ebola virus and then traveling to America as a “real and present danger.”

“Well, it’s certainly something I’ve been thinking about ever since this Ebola outbreak started,” Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said Wednesday of ISIS using Ebola on America’s Forum on NewsmaxTV.

NewsMaxTV cited Al Shimkus, a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, who said last week that that ISIS fighters could infect themselves with the Ebola virus and then travel to U.S. as a form of biological warfare.

From The Hill, Obama concedes an issue to the Republicans:

Obama may appoint Ebola czar

President Obama on Thursday said it “may make sense” to appoint an Ebola czar to oversee the federal government’s response to the deadly virus.

Obama’s remarks represent a significant shift for the White House, which has rejected the czar idea repeatedly.

“It may make sense for us to have one person in part just so that after this initial surge of activity we can have a more regular process to make sure we’re crossing all the t’s and dotting all the i’s,” Obama said after meeting with top health officials in the Oval Office.

“If I appoint somebody, I’ll let you know,” he added.

And the latest American Ebola scare, via China Daily:

Patient with ‘Ebola-like symptoms’ admitted to Connecticut hospital

Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut was evaluating a patient with “Ebola-like symptoms” on Thursday and will likely know within 24 hours whether the person has the deadly disease, a hospital official said.

The patient is one of two Yale University graduate epidemiology students who traveled to Liberia last month to advise the health ministry on using computers to track Ebola, according to Laurence Grotheer, a spokesman for New Haven Mayor Toni Harp.

“Yale-New Haven Hospital admitted a patient late Wednesday night for evaluation of Ebola-like symptoms. We have not confirmed or ruled out any diagnosis at this point,” the hospital said in the statement on its website.

Dr. Thomas Balcezak, the hospital’s chief medical officer, said at a press conference that fever was among the patient’s symptoms and they were placed in isolation. Balcezak said the patient was in stable condition.

On to the politics and logistics from the Los Angeles Times:

‘We made mistakes,’ Dallas hospital chief says of Ebola crisis

Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Thursday defended his agency’s handling of the Ebola crisis while conceding the agency may have allowed a Texas nurse to fly on a commercial airline even though she was among a group of healthcare workers involved in treating the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the nation.

The hearing followed partisan lines, with Republicans pushing their agenda for closing the border with a ban on travel from West African countries where the Ebola virus has broken out. Democrats opposed such a ban and called for greater efforts to fight Ebola at the source in Africa. Some Democrats questioned the effect of GOP-backed budget cuts in curbing efforts to fight Ebola at home.

“People are scared,” said Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. “People’s lives are at stake, and the response so far has been unacceptable.”

More from the Washington Post:

CDC director’s challenge: Deadly Ebola virus and outbreak of criticism

“I am not protecting West Africa,” Tom Frieden, pacing in his office, tells an unhappy U.S. senator on the other end of a call from Washington. “My number one responsibility is to protect Americans from threats.”

Then: “Respectfully, sir, I don’t agree with you.”

A moment later: “I hope to regain your confidence.”

When he hangs up, Frieden doesn’t identify the senator, other than to say he was a Republican who wants an absolute travel ban on people from West Africa because of the Ebola epidemic. Frieden thinks that’s a misguided idea that will backfire, but the senator would not be persuaded.

“It was pingpong ball against iron safe,” he says.

From BBC News, a mixed report from the UN:

Ebola crisis: WHO signals help for Africa to stop spread

The World Health Organization is to “ramp up” efforts to prevent Ebola spreading beyond the three countries most affected by the deadly virus.

Fifteen African countries are being prioritised, top WHO official Isabelle Nuttall told a Geneva news conference.

They will receive more help in areas including prevention and protection.

But former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has said he is “bitterly disappointed” with the international community’s response.

More from the New York Times:

New U.N. Ebola Trust Fund Falls Far Short of Goal

The United Nations trust fund for Ebola has received barely one percent of the $1 billion that the world body says it needs to tackle the outbreak — and that too from only one country, Colombia, United Nations officials said Thursday.

It has received pledges of about $20 million from various governments, but only $100,000 in actual cash deposits.

Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general, had earlier told reporters that the trust fund, announced in mid-September, had received $20 million in cash. His aides later clarified that the $20 million amount referred to pledges, not cash.

From the Guardian, a caution:

Ebola epidemic may not end without developing vaccine, scientist warns

  • Professor Peter Piot, one of the scientists who discovered Ebola, claims scale of outbreak has got ‘completely out of hand’

The Ebola epidemic, which is out of control in three countries and directly threatening 15 others, may not end until the world has a vaccine against the disease, according to one of the scientists who discovered the virus.

Professor Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said it would not have been difficult to contain the outbreak if those on the ground and the UN had acted promptly earlier this year. “Something that is easy to control got completely out of hand,” said Piot, who was part of a team that identified the causes of the first outbreak of Ebola in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, in 1976 and helped bring it to an end.

The scale of the epidemic in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea means that isolation, care and tracing and monitoring contacts, which have worked before, will not halt the spread. “It may be that we have to wait for a vaccine to stop the epidemic,” he said.

A de facto quarantine in Dallas from the Guardian:

Texas healthcare workers at risk of Ebola asked to stay out of public

  • Seventy-five staff members of Dallas hospital asked to sign ‘binding legal order’ that states they will avoid public spaces

Healthcare workers deemed to be at risk of contracting Ebola after dealing with a patient who died from the virus in Texas are being asked to sign voluntary agreements to stay away from the public, after Dallas authorities decided against declaring a state of emergency.

Seventy-five staff members from Texas Health Presbyterian hospital are being given a “binding legal document and order” that states they will avoid public transport, not go to areas where large numbers of people congregate, and continue to be monitored twice a day for symptoms, county judge Clay Jenkins said on Thursday.

Any of those involved in the care of Thomas Eric Duncan who refuse to sign the agreement would be subject to a legal control order, Jenkins told reporters after a meeting of the county commissioners court in downtown Dallas. “All the remedies of the law are available,” he said. However he said he believed this would not be necessary. “These are hometown healthcare heroes,” he said. “They’re not going to jail.”

One complication, via the Associated Press:

US monitors health care worker aboard cruise ship

Obama administration officials say a Dallas health care worker who handled a lab specimen from an Ebola-infected man from Liberia who died of the disease is on a Caribbean cruise ship where she has self-quarantined and is is being monitored for any signs of infection.

The officials say the woman has shown no signs of the disease and has been asymptomatic for 17 days.

The government is working to return the woman and her husband to the U.S. before the ship completes its cruise. The officials say the State Department is working with a country they won’t identify to secure their transportation home.

Labaor relations complicated, via Al Jazeera America:

Dallas hospital refutes nurses’ allegation of haphazard Ebola protocols

  • Nurses’ union said hospital didn’t properly handle patient who died after becoming first Ebola case diagnosed in US

Officials at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas have countered allegations from a nurses’ union that sloppy protocols were used in dealing with Ebola at the facility, where Thomas Eric Duncan — the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States — died last week. The hospital said Thursday the union’s assertions “do not reflect actual facts.”

The development comes as the U.S. government seeks to ramp up its response to the Ebola crisis after two Dallas nurses also became ill, the second of whom had been cleared to travel on a commercial flight a day before her diagnosis, it has been disclosed.

While Ebola patients are not considered contagious until they have symptoms and only two people are known to have contracted the disease in the U.S., the latest revelations about the handling of the situation have raised alarms about whether hospitals and the public health system are equipped to handle the deadly disease.

Reuters lays blame:

Experts fault changing U.S. guidelines on Ebola protective gear

When Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), visited Ebola-stricken sites in West Africa last August, he was dressed in a full protective bodysuit and ventilator.

That level of protection was far greater than the basic gear the CDC initially recommended for U.S. hospital workers, which at minimum included a gown, a single pair of gloves, a mask and face shield.

After a second nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas fell ill with Ebola after caring for a dying Liberian patient, the CDC this week beefed up its recommendations for personal protective equipment to include hooded full-body suits that cover the neck, more frequent hand washing and a supervisor who oversees the removal of infected gear, steps experts said should have been done long ago.

From the Guardian, the clamor intensifies:

Ebola crisis: Republicans ramp up calls for west Africa travel bans

  • FAA assessing question ‘on a day-to-day’ basis
  • White House says measure would be counter-productive

Republicans are stepping up pressure for travel bans on passengers arriving from Ebola-stricken countries in west Africa, calling for a vote on quarantine measures in the House of Representatives as the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) acknowledged it was assessing the question “on a day-to-day” basis.

The White House and senior US health officials continue to insist such measures would be counter-productive because they would hamper efforts to control the Ebola epidemic at its source, but the growing clamour from critics in Congress means the issue is becoming a major political battleground in Washington.

During the first hearing into the administration’s handling of the crisis in Washington on Thursday, a succession of Republican congressmen joined the House speaker, John Boehner, in calling on the administration to urgently review its opposition to tighter travel restrictions.

The inevitable, via BuzzFeed:

Boehner Won’t Say If Texas Should Have An Ebola Travel Ban, Too

The nation’s top elected Republican said Wednesday that travel should be halted from West African nations suffering from the Ebola outbreak.

House Speaker John Boehner Wednesday called for a “temporary” ban on flights from countries with Ebola outbreaks, but stopped short of calling for a travel ban for Texas, despite the fact that an Ebola-infected nurse flew to his home state of Ohio from Dallas earlier this month.

In a statement released by his office Wednesday evening, Boehner joined a growing chorus of Republicans insisting the Obama administration impose a travel ban on West African countries suffering from the Ebola conference.

Boehner invoked the Texas Ebola patient in calling for a ban on other parts of the world, saying, “Today we learned that one individual who has contracted the virus flew to Ohio through the Cleveland airport in the last few days. A temporary ban on travel to the United States from countries afflicted with the virus is something that the president should absolutely consider.”

Asked if Boehner also believes flights from Texas to other parts of the country should be halted, Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said by email Boehner “said [Obama] should consider a temporary ban on travel to the United States from countries afflicted with the virus along with any other appropriate actions. That’s where we are right now. Don’t have anything more.”

Meanwhile other countries are jumping on the travel banswagon. From the Associated Press:

Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad impose Ebola travel bans

Jamaica, Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago on Thursday became the latest countries in the Western Hemisphere to restrict travelers from West African nations struggling with an epidemic of the Ebola virus.

The announcements came a day after Colombia and St. Lucia ordered similar prohibitions.

Authorities in Jamaica imposed an immediate entry ban on anyone who has been in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone within four weeks.

The ban was announced shortly after a U.S. couple was quarantined at Sangster International Airport in the northern tourist town of Montego Bay. Airport screeners found one of the Americans had been in Liberia two weeks ago. Officials said the couple was kept in quarantine, found to be healthy, and then sent back to an unspecified city in the U.S.

Guyana’s government said that country’s diplomatic missions had been directed not to issue visas to people from West African nations affected by the virus.

Trinidad & Tobago said it would deny entry any resident of Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo or Sierra Leone. Other travelers who have visited any of those nations within six weeks will be quarantined for 21 days upon their arrival.

From Al Jazeera America, heightening intensity:

Obama authorizes National Guard call-up amid criticism over Ebola response

  • President signs executive order permitting Pentagon to use reservists, but resists calls for West Africa travel ban

President Barack Obama has authorized the Pentagon to call up reserve and National Guard troops if they are needed to assist in the U.S. response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The United States has already committed to sending up to 4,000 military personnel to Ebola-stricken countries to provide logistics and help build treatment units to confront the rapidly spreading and deadly virus.

But amid rising criticism over the handling of the patients in the U.S., the White House resisted calls from Republican lawmakers that a travel ban be imposed on those wishing to fly to America from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea — the countries that have been worst hit by the outbreak.

And some exceptional praise from BBC News:

Ebola crisis: US says Cuban medical support ‘welcome’

Cuba is a “welcome” addition to the fight against Ebola, a senior US official has said.

A state department spokesman said the Cuban government was doing more than many others to contain the disease. “We welcome their support,” she said. The US has maintained an embargo on Cuba for more than five decades.

Last month, Havana announced it would send about 450 medical and support staff to the region. The BBC’s Will Grant in Havana said that Cuba already had a tradition of sending its doctors and nurses to Africa before the recent Ebola outbreak.

Cuban officials are hosting a regional summit on the virus next week involving left-wing Latin American governments. Health ministers from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador are expected to attend to discuss how to bolster the region’s response to the Ebola crisis.

On to Canada with CBC News:

Ebola outbreak: Harper tells Obama more help on the way

  • Republican lawmaker questions whether U.S.-Canada border needs to be better secured

Canada is about to announce new measures in the fight against Ebola, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told U.S. President Barack Obama Thursday amid increased fear over the spreading virus.

The prime minister made the promise in a phone chat with Obama, according to a summary of the call released by Harper’s office.

CBC News learned Wednesday that Canada was contributing an additional $30 million to the fight against Ebola. The new measures will add to Canada’s current contribution of $5 million, as the United Nations pleads for more international help and warns that the virus must be contained within 60 days.

The growing sense of panic was also reflected in a congressional hearing Thursday in Washington.

One lawmaker even briefly questioned whether the northern border might need to be better secured. That improbable reference to the 49th parallel came from a Tennessee Republican, who during a House hearing asked whether America’s land borders were safe from the deadly virus.

After the jump, Canadian alarms, intensified screenings in Europe, good news for Europe’s first endogenous Ebola patient but joined by four new suspect patients, a Danish false alarm and increased aid, still more aid from Germany and Sweden, Latin leaders huddle for preparations plans while Asian and Euopean leader do the same, China and Japan assess strengths and weaknesses and Australia wages an internal political battle, on to Africa and a warning from the African Union, an Ebolaphobia-driven soccer tournament cancellation, from Sierra Leone, a harsh warning for the nation’s capital and a doctor’s despairing prognosis as the nation’s last Ebola-free district falls victim and the biggest corporate benefactor of the Ebola fight goes bankrupt, thence to Liberia where there’s a shortage of body bags, survivors find themselves isolated, healthcare workers go unpaid, children teach each other, a projected civil service purge draws fire, and questionable ‘cures’ flourish, plus economic despir in Zimbabwe and the Gambia. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: More alarms, US angst, African woes


And much, much more. . .

We begin with a shrieking alarm, via the Guardian:

WHO warns 10,000 new cases of Ebola a week are possible

  • UN agency says fatality rate at 70% and that ‘a lot more people will die’ unless world steps up its response to crisis

The Ebola outbreak could grow to 10,000 new cases a week within two months, the World Health Organisation warned on Tuesday as the death toll from the virus reached 4,447 people, nearly all of them in west Africa.

Dr Bruce Aylward, the WHO assistant director-general, told a news conference in Geneva that the number of new cases was likely to be between 5,000 and 10,000 a week by early December.

WHO’s regular updates show that deaths have resulted from 4,447 of the 8,914 reported cases, but Aylward said that any assumption that the death rate was 50% would be wrong. He put the death rate at 70% because many deaths are not reported or recorded officially.

Where detailed investigations have been carried out, it was clear that only 30% of people were surviving, he said, adding that the figure was almost exactly the same in the three hardest hit countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. “This is a high-mortality disease in any circumstances but particularly in these places,” said Aylward.

More from Sky News:

Sixty Days To Beat Ebola, United Nations Warns

  • If the deadly outbreak cannot be reined in by Christmas then the UN says there is no plan in place and it could be overwhelmed

The UN says the ebola outbreak must be controlled within 60 days or else the world faces an “unprecedented” situation for which there is no plan.

The United Nations made the stark warning as it warned that the disease “is running faster than us and it is winning the race”.

Nearly 9,000 cases of ebola have been reported so far in West Africa, including 4,447 deaths.

“The WHO advises within 60 days we must ensure 70% of infected people are in a care facility and 70% of burials are done without causing further infection,” said Anthony Banbury, the UN’s deputy ebola coordinator.

“We need to do that within 60 days from 1 October. If we reach these targets then we can turn this epidemic around.”

A video report from RT:

‘Key to containing Ebola is getting more intl help’ – WHO spokesperson

Program notes:

Ebola deaths are being recorded in more and more countries around the world – a United Nations worker has died in hospital in Germany – the latest victim of the virus outside Africa. At the heart of the pandemic – in West Africa – the outbreak has already killed more than 4,000 people. For more RT is joined by Winifred Romeril from the World Health Organization.

From Voice of America, a lament:

International Ebola Support is Lethargic, MSF Says

South Africans working for Doctors Without Borders, known by its French initials MSF, are calling on their fellow citizens to support efforts to stem the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.  More than 4,000 people have died and the number of new infections is doubling every three weeks. Yet there is a severe shortage of medical facilities, contact tracing, surveillance and education on Ebola in affected communities.

The message from MSF is a simple one: the international community is failing the people of West Africa.

MSF says that despite promises from various countries to help stem the deadly virus, to date, few pledges have translated into concrete action on the ground.   Sharon Ekambaram, head of a MSF South Africa unit, says there are critical gaps in all aspects of the response.

“And so the spread of Ebola continues unabated as the response fails to curtail and bring down new infections,” she explained. “MSF is really angry that the world and the international community is failing the people of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. It is hard to understand, to be frank, the media frenzy about individual contaminations of people in the USA and in Europe… rich nations have the resources to contain spread of Ebola if it reaches their shores. It is the people of the impoverished communities of West Africa that are at the highest risk of infection and death.”

While Nikkei Asian Review examines another impact:

Ebola casting shadow on global economy

Rising concern over a possible global outbreak of Ebola, especially in the wake of the new cases in Spain and the U.S., is putting investors on edge and has begun affecting the global economy.

The disease will likely prove a long-term drag on the African economy. Ebola’s two-year financial impact could reach $32.6 billion by the end of 2015 in West Africa alone, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said Thursday.

Expectations that global travel will slow sent airline stocks down in the U.S. market Monday. The government has begun screening travelers from West Africa at major airports.

From the New York Times, reassurance:

Scientists Rein In Fears of Ebola, a Virus Whose Mysteries Tend to Invite Speculation

News that a nurse in full protective gear had become infected with the Ebola virus raised some disturbing questions on Monday. Has the virus evolved into some kind of super-pathogen? Might it mutate into something even more terrifying in the months to come?

Evolutionary biologists who study viruses generally agree on the answers to those two questions: no, and probably not.

The Ebola viruses buffeting West Africa today are not fundamentally different from those in previous outbreaks, they say. And it is highly unlikely that natural selection will give the viruses the ability to spread more easily, particularly by becoming airborne.

“I’ve been dismayed by some of the nonsense speculation out there,” said Edward Holmes, a biologist at the University of Sydney in Australia. “I understand why people get nervous about this, but as scientists we need to be very careful we don’t scaremonger.”

From the Washington Post, angst:

Ebola poll: Two-thirds of Americans worried about possible widespread epidemic in U.S.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans are concerned about a widespread Ebola epidemic in the United States, despite repeated assurances from public officials that the country’s modern health-care and disease-surveillance systems will prevent the type of outbreak ravaging West Africa.

In a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in recent days, the number of Americans who say the government should be doing more to prevent additional Ebola cases in the United States is almost twice the number who believe the United States is doing all it can to control the spread of the virus.

That includes overwhelming support — 91 percent — in favor of stricter screening for people traveling to this country from West Africa. Such screening began this past weekend at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and soon will begin at four other international airports in the country.

And the New York Times covers the political front:

Debate Over Ebola Turns to Specific Policy Requests

The public health concerns about Ebola have now spread to both political parties, which are engaged in a finger-pointing policy debate that could jar midterm elections just weeks away.

For a week, Republicans have advocated severely limiting — if not eliminating — flights from West Africa, accusing President Obama of complicity in a looming epidemic for failing to take their advice. On Monday, Democrats joined the debate, blaming Republican budget cutting for the government’s failure to prepare for Ebola.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee unveiled an Internet banner advertisement charging Republicans with undermining the Ebola response by cutting funds for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention while protecting tax breaks for special interests. A little-known liberal group, the Agenda Project Action Fund, showed a 60-second advertisement that it says will run in Kentucky next week. It includes gruesome images of dead and dying West Africans. “Republican cuts kill,” the ad says as it ends, accompanied by the sound of breathing through a respirator. “Vote.”

More from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Pols trade blame for Ebola, but both parties cut budgets for health

The political blame game over the deadly Ebola virus is in full swing just weeks before the November elections – with each side ignoring the facts.

Several Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, contend that President Barack Obama has been too slow or hasn’t done enough in response to the outbreak. Some Republicans, such as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, want to restrict air travel from West Africa, the outbreak’s epicenter, or bolster the U.S. borders.

Democrats are pointing fingers, too, blaming congressional Republican budget-cutting zeal for crippling the response of federal health institutions to the crisis. On Monday, a liberal group and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee linked Republican fiscal policies to the Ebola outbreak.

Still more from the National Journal:

Lawmakers Want Answers on U.S. Ebola Cases

  • Hearing Thursday will examine whether the country is prepared to cope with the virus.

Amid rising anxiety over the Ebola outbreak, a congressional panel is to convene Thursday in Washington to hear details of the two confirmed cases in Dallas and whether America’s ports of entry, hospitals, and health care workers are adequately prepared to prevent a further spread of the virus.

The lawmakers’ inquiry will include the question of why screening procedures did not prevent Thomas Duncan from entering the U.S. from Liberia on Sept. 20, the handling of his diagnosis, and his treatment prior to his death last week, according to a memo released Tuesday by majority staffers of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The committee will also be updated by officials scrambling to determine how a nurse who helped treat Duncan at a Texas hospital has become the first person to contract Ebola in the U.S.

Reuters covers the White House response:

White House to seek more Ebola funds in FY2015 spending bill

The Obama administration expects to ask Congress for additional funds for a growing U.S. government effort to halt the spread of Ebola, White House Budget Director Shaun Donovan said on Tuesday.

Donovan told Reuters that the request, which would come on top of more than $1 billion in federal funds currently available, would be made in the coming weeks as Congress reconvenes in November to consider a 2015 fiscal year spending bill in the post-election “lame duck” session.

“Our expectation is that we will be talking to Congress about additional needs,” Donovan said at the Reuters Global Climate Change Summit in Washington.

On to the first home-grown American case with the Guardian:

Dallas nurse infected with Ebola gets blood transfusion from survivor

  • Dr Kent Brantly, the first American to return to the US from Liberia to be treated for Ebola, donated plasma to Nina Pham

A Dallas nurse who caught Ebola while treating a Liberian patient who died of the disease has received a plasma transfusion donated by a doctor who beat the virus.

Ebola has killed more than 4,000 people nearly all of them in West Africa in an outbreak the World Health Organisation has called “the most severe, acute health emergency seen in modern times.” US health officials say they are ramping up training for medical workers who deal with the infected.

Nurse Nina Pham was among about 70 staff members at Texas Health Presbyterian hospital who cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, according to medical records. They drew his blood, put tubes down his throat and wiped up his diarrhoea. They analysed his urine and wiped saliva from his lips, even after he had lost consciousness.

More from the Washington Post:

The decades-old treatment that may save a young Dallas nurse infected with Ebola

In late July, when it looked like Dr. Kent Brantly wasn’t going to make it, a small news item escaped Liberia. It spoke of Brantly’s treatment – not of the Ebola vaccine, Zmapp, which Brantly later got. But of a blood transfusion. He had “received a unit of blood from a 14-year-old boy who had survived Ebola because of Dr. Brantly’s care,” the missive said.

Now months later, Brantly, who has since recovered from his battle with the virus, has passed on the favor. A 26-year-old Dallas nurse named Nina Pham, who contracted the illness while treating the United States’ first Ebola patient, has received Brantly’s blood. It’s not the first time it has been used to treat Ebola patients. Recovered Ebola victim Richard Sacra got it, as well as U.S. journalist Ashoka Mukpo, who last night said he’s on the mend.

Injecting the blood of a patient such as Brantly, who has recovered from Ebola and developed certain antibodies, is a decades-old but promising method of treatment that, academics and health officials agree, could be one of the best means to fight Ebola. Called a convalescent serum, it might also save Pham, an alum of Texas Christian University.

And the Daily Mail offers the usual omnium gatherum:

Ebola-stricken nurse breaks her silence from quarantine unit to say she is ‘being cared for by the best team in the world’ at Dallas hospital

  • Nina Pham, 26, said on Tuesday: ‘I am blessed by the support of family and friends and am blessed to be cared for by the best team of doctors and nurses in the world’
  • The nurse has received blood transfusion from Dr Kent Brantly, who was given the all-clear from Ebola
  • Antibodies in his blood could help the patients fight the disease
  • Miss Pham, from Fort Worth, caught the Ebola virus while treating Thomas Eric Duncan, 42, in Dallas
  • Second person who some identified as Miss Pham’s boyfriend is being monitored for symptoms
  • Miss Pham raised in Vietnamese family in Fort Worth and graduated from Texas Christian University in 2010 with Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • About 70 staff members at Texas hospital were involved in the care of first Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan after he was hospitalized

Support, via Reuters:

U.S. health workers rally on Facebook for Dallas nurse with Ebola

Thousands of U.S. health workers have joined social media campaigns in the past few days to support a Texas nurse who became the first person infected with Ebola in the United States, which she contracted caring for a dying African patient at a Dallas hospital.

The nurse, Nina Pham, 26, was diagnosed over the weekend and is in an isolation unit at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where she worked. She has been swept in questions on whether a lapse in infectious disease protocols was behind her becoming infected.

“She isn’t sick because she is a bad nurse, didn’t follow protocol, or was inadequately trained. She is the RN (registered nurse) who made a sacrifice to care for a very sick man,” Roy Rannila, a staff member for the Texas hospital group caring for Pham wrote on his Facebook page.

A Facebook page, “Nurses for Nina”, has garnered over 4,500 “likes” in less than 24 hours and messages of support from healthcare providers in areas such as Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Tennessee and Washington D.C.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, playing catch-up:

Dallas health officials scramble to identify staff who treated Ebola patient

Health officials on Monday were scrambling to identify and monitor a large number of health care workers at a Dallas hospital who could be at risk of contracting Ebola after they cared for Thomas Eric Duncan in the hospital’s isolation ward.

It’s unclear how many caregivers could be at risk; some reports indicated as many as 70 were involved in Duncan’s treatment. Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said he wouldn’t be surprised if more workers develop the disease in the coming weeks.

A 26-year-old nurse at the hospital, who was identified Monday by her family as Nina Pham, tested positive for the virus Saturday even though she had worn protective clothing in her multiple contacts with Duncan.

More from the the Washington Post:

CDC doesn’t know how many health-care workers in Dallas may have been exposed to Ebola; AP says it’s ‘about 70’ people

A day after a nurse who treated an Ebola-stricken patient in Dallas was diagnosed with the virus, public health officials are still trying to figure out how many health-care workers may have had similar exposure.

It is still unclear how, exactly, the nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas became the first person to contract the virus in the United States, said Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But if one health-care worker was infected, “it is possible other people could have been infected as well,” Frieden said during a briefing with reporters on Monday.

The Associated Press covers a confession:

CDC acknowledges it could have done more on Ebola

he nation’s top disease-fighting agency acknowledged Tuesday that federal health experts failed to do all they should have done to prevent Ebola from spreading from a Liberian man who died last week in Texas to the nurse who treated him.

The stark admission from the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came as the World Health Organization projected the pace of infections accelerating in West Africa — to as many as 10,000 new cases a week within two months.

Agency Director Tom Frieden outlined a series of steps designed to stop the spread of the disease in the U.S., including increased training for health care workers and changes at the Texas hospital where the virus was diagnosed to minimize the risk of more infections.

While the Los Angeles Times covers serious allegations:

Dallas nurses describe Ebola hospital care: ‘There was no protocol’

A Liberian man who arrived by ambulance at a Dallas hospital with symptoms of Ebola sat for “several hours” in a room with other patients before being put in isolation, and the nurses who treated him wore flimsy gowns and had little protective gear, nurses alleged Tuesday as they fought back against suggestions that one of their own had erred in handling him.

The statements came as Nina Pham, a 26-year-old nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, fought off the Ebola virus after contracting it from the Liberian, Thomas Eric Duncan. The statements by the Dallas hospital nurses were read by representatives of the Oakland-based group National Nurses United.

RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United, said the nonunionized Texas nurses could not identify themselves, speak to the media independently or even read their statements over the phone because they feared losing their jobs. In a conference call, questions from the media were relayed to the unknown number of nurses by National Nurses United representatives, and the responses were read back to reporters.

While here in the San Francisco Bay area, hospitals are getting ready, reports the Contra Costa Times:

East Bay hospitals brace against Ebola

East Bay hospitals are prepared to screen, diagnose, isolate, and if necessary, treat and stop the threat of Ebola, according to U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell.

“They are ready,” he said. “They know what to look for … and I’m confident that if someone does present Ebola-like symptoms, they will be immediately isolated and treated so we can stop the spread.”

Swalwell, D-Dublin, held a conference call Tuesday with about 20 East Bay health care leaders at San Ramon Regional Medical Center, allowing them the opportunity to query Dr. John Brooks, the medical task force lead for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Emergency Ebola Response, on the latest on the outbreak and how to protect against it.

“Hospitals are understandably concerned,” Swalwell said, adding that the spread of the virus has become a humanitarian crisis in West Africa where 4,000 people have died of Ebola and there are 8,000 cases. “I can’t think of a recent illness in the United States that is so deadly that could be spread by direct bodily fluid and have such a high fatality rate in such a short amount of time.”

And from United Press International, an apology from a talking head:

NBC’s Nancy Snyderman apologizes for violating Ebola quarantine

Nancy Snyderman issued an apology after she was caught leaving her house, despite being under quarantine after a member of her crew contracted Ebola in West Africa

A group of NBC journalists, including NBC’s chief medical editor Nancy Snyderman, are now under mandatory quarantine after they were spotted out in public last week, violating a voluntary quarantine after one of their crew contracted Ebola on a trip to Africa.

Dr. Snyderman issued an apology Monday, acknowledging that they had indeed left confinement against advice, but assured the public that they were not showing signs of the disease.

“While under voluntary quarantine guidelines, which called for our team to avoid public contact for 21 days, members of our group violated those guidelines and understand that our quarantine is now mandatory until 21 days have passed,” Snyderman said in a statement.

While Vocativ covers an act that mandates an apology:

College Allegedly Rejects Nigerian Student Because of Ebola Fears

  • The Texas school might have turned down the young man, even though he lives in a country that has been Ebola-free for more than a month

The latest outbreak of Ebola hysteria in the U.S. comes from a community college in central Texas called Navarro College. The school recently turned down an application from a student in Nigeria, writing that it’s not accepting international students “from countries with confirmed Ebola cases.” Idris Ayodeji Bello, a Nigerian who currently lives in east Texas, learned about the rejection letter from a friend in Nigeria, Dr. Kamorudeen Abidogun, who also happens to be the student’s brother-in-law. Bello posted the document on his website and to Twitter, and it looks to be signed by Navarro College Director of International Programs Elizabeth A. Pillans.

Abidogun tells Vocativ that the rejected Nigerian student hopes to major in computer science, and he “was motivated by the high standard of U.S. colleges and universities” to apply to Navarro College. The young man has written an email to Navarro expressing his disappointment with the rejection letter, Abidogun says, but he hasn’t yet received a response. It doesn’t make much sense for an American college to reject Nigerian students because of Ebola fears. Though Nigeria has had 20 confirmed Ebola cases, the country’s efforts to quash the disease have been largely successful—and could serve as a model for other West African nations.

The New York Times covers a death in Germany:

Ebola Patient Dies in German Hospital

A 56-year-old man who had been working with the United Nations in Liberia died overnight at the hospital in Leipzig where he was being treated for Ebola, the hospital said Tuesday in a statement quoted by the German news media.

The brief statement gave no further details. The man was the third patient to arrive in Germany in recent weeks for treatment of Ebola, and the first to die.

The first patient, a Senegalese man who worked for the World Health Organization, was treated in Hamburg from late August until Oct. 3, when he was released. He has since returned home. The second patient, a Ugandan doctor who was working in West Africa for an Italian aid organization, continues to receive treatment at a hospital in Frankfurt.

A video report from Deutsche Welle:

Ebola patient dies in Germany

Program notes:

A Sudanese UN medical worker has succumbed to Ebola in a Leipzig clinic after receiving intensive medical care.

On to Spain with El País:

Number of patients being monitored for Ebola symptoms rises to 100

  • As well as 15 high-risk contacts, a further 83 are under “active vigilance”

The number of people currently under observation after having come into contact with Spanish Ebola patient Teresa Romero has risen to 100. All of these people interacted with the nursing assistant during the six days that she was presenting symptoms of the virus, which is when contagion can occur.

As well as the 15 people currently admitted to the Carlos III Hospital in Madrid, considered “high-risk contacts,” there are a further 83 that are being monitored, EL PAÍS has determined. The last official figure supplied was 52.

These 83 people are in their homes for now, and are subject to what the experts call “active vigilance” – i.e., they are being called by Madrid regional public health personnel twice a day to ensure that they are taking their temperature and to find out the results. This kind of passive observation is the same process used with people at risk, as was the case of Romero, who became infected with Ebola while treating two Spanish missionaries with the virus who had been repatriated from West Africa.

And an apology, also from El País:

Madrid health chief apologizes to nursing assistant with Ebola

  • Javier Rodríguez admits comments were “unfortunate,” but stops short of resigning

Madrid’s regional health chief has issued a public apology to Teresa Romero, the nursing assistant who contracted Ebola after treating two infected Spanish missionaries, after accusing her of concealing information from medics and of being clumsy with her protective suit.

In a letter to Romero’s husband, who had called for his resignation, Javier Rodríguez admits that his public statements last Thursday were “unfortunate” and that he never meant to offend the patient, who remains in a serious but stable condition in Madrid’s Carlos III Hospital.

“I know these are very tough moments for you and your family, and I understand that my words may have caused even more pain,” writes Rodríguez in a letter that was published by news agency EFE. “I in no way meant to add to the pain that you are going through.”

An Ebola scare in Canada from CBC News:

Ebola test result awaited by member of Canadian Forces aid mission

  • ‘Extremely unlikely’ aircrew member will test positive for Ebola, doctor says

A man quarantined in a Belleville, Ont., hospital while awaiting Ebola test results is a member of the Canadian Forces aircrew who dropped off supplies to combat the disease in Sierra Leone, CBC News has learned.

The patient is currently in isolation and samples have been sent to the National Microbiology lab in Winnipeg. Results should be ready late Tuesday evening or early Wednesday morning.

The patient arrived at the Belleville General Hospital emergency room early Monday. He had recently returned from West Africa and showed some symptoms common with the Ebola virus.

From the London Telegraph, the military angle:

More troops tackling Ebola than battling Isil or the Taliban

  • The military campaign to help defeat Ebola becomes the Armed Forces’ biggest overseas deployment

Britain will soon have more troops tackling Ebola than battling Isil or the Taliban, as the military campaign to help defeat the deadly disease outbreak becomes the Armed Forces’ biggest overseas deployment.

Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, said the UK had to act to help stop the spread of the disease, or it would tear through West Africa, then into Europe and the UK.

By the end of November around 750 British troops will be in Sierra Leone helping to set up medical centres and train staff to tackle the outbreak which has killed more than 4,000.

He said by then it would be the UK’s “biggest deployment overseas” as it pulls back from its 13-year war in Afghanistan.

After the jump, preparations in Japan, capitalizing on crisis, vaccines promised and researched, a hefty Zuckberg donation, an atomic helping hand, a UN official’s prescription, a British hospital ship heading to Sierra Leone, an expanding Ebola text-message system, Ebola outbreaks in Nigeria and Senegal over, on to Sierra Leone and scare resources, then on to Liberia and one county’s tripling of cases, division over a desperate measure in desperate times, a ministerial quarantine, the perils of care, a hospital reopens, a warning over burials, high-level visits to Monrovia, Cote d’Ivoire quarantines arrivals from Liberia, and to close on a note of absurdity, two stories about shouting Ebola on crowd bus. . . Continue reading