Obama: No margin for error on Ebola

2014-10-07 06:00
US President Barack Obama speaks in Tallinn, Estonia. (Charles Dharapak, AP)

US President Barack Obama speaks in Tallinn, Estonia. (Charles Dharapak, AP)

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Washington - Raising fresh concern around the world, a nurse in Spain on Monday became the first person known to catch Ebola outside the outbreak zone in West Africa. In the US, President Barack Obama said the government was considering ordering more careful screening of airline passengers arriving from the region.

In dealing with potential Ebola cases, Obama said, "we don't have a lot of margin for error."

Already hospitalised in the US, a critically ill Liberian man, Thomas Duncan, began receiving an experimental drug in Dallas. But there were encouraging signs for an American video journalist who returned from Liberia for treatment. Ashoka Mukpo, 33, was able to walk off the plane before being loaded on a stretcher and taken to an ambulance, and his father said his symptoms of fever and nausea appeared mild.

"It was really wonderful to see his face," said Dr Mitchell Levy, who talked to his son over a video chat system at Nebraska Medical Centre.

In Spain, the stricken nurse had been part of a team that treated two missionaries flown home to Spain after becoming infected with Ebola in West Africa. The nurse's only symptom was a fever, but the infection was confirmed by two tests, Spanish health officials said. She was being treated in isolation, while authorities drew up a list of people she had had contact with.

Medical workers in Texas were among Americans waiting to find out whether they had been infected by Duncan, the African traveler.

In Washington, the White House continued to rule out any blanket ban on travel from West Africa.

People leaving the outbreak zone are checked for fevers before they're allowed to board airplanes, but the disease's incubation period is 21 days and symptoms could arise later.

Airline crews and border agents already watch for obviously sick passengers, and in a high-level meeting at the White House, officials discussed potential options for screening passengers when they arrive in the U.S. as well.

Nancy Castles, a spokeswoman for Los Angeles International Airport, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has had employees on site at more than a dozen major international airports in the U.S. like LAX for many years. Screening of passengers starts with Customs and Border Protection agents, who work with CDC when they have a case they are concerned about.

Airline crews and border agents already watch for obviously sick passengers, and in a high-level meeting at the White House, officials discussed potential options for screening passengers when they arrive in the U.S. as well.

Obama said the US will be "working on protocols to do additional passenger screening both at the source and here in the United States". He did not outline any details or offer a timeline for when new measures might begin.

Additional screening would not have caught Duncan because he wasn't exhibiting any Ebola symptoms when he arrived in the US.

The Obama administration maintains that the best way to protect Americans is to end the outbreak in Africa. To that end, the US military was working on Monday on the first of 17 promised medical centres in Liberia and training up to 4 000 soldiers this week to help with the Ebola crisis.

The US is equipped to stop any further cases that reach this country, said White House spokesperson Josh Earnest.

"The tragedy of this situation is that Ebola is rapidly spreading among populations in West African who don't have that kind of medical infrastructure," Earnest said.

Associated Press writers Jorge Sainz in Spain, David Koenig in Dallas, Josh Funk in Omaha, Matthew Perrone, Lolita Baldor and Joan Lowy in Washington, and Krista Larson and Sarah DiLorenzo in Liberia contributed to this report.

Read more on:    barack obama  |  spain  |  us  |  liberia  |  ebola

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