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Oct. 18: The latest developments in Ebola

Here is a look at some of the most recent Ebola developments around the world:

Castro: Cuba would cooperate with US against Ebola

Fidel Castro says Cuba is ready to cooperate with the United States in the battle against Ebola.

The 88-year-old ex-leader writes in state news media on Saturday that cooperation would be in the interest of “the peace of the world.”

Cuba has already sent 165 doctors and nurses to help fight Ebola in Sierra Leon and it plans to send 296 others soon to Liberia and Guinea. That effort has brought unusual praise from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Ebola monitoring inconsistent as virus spread

The top administrator in Dallas County rushed to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital this week responding to urgent news: One of its nurses had caught Ebola from a patient. He quickly asked for the hospital’s watch list to find out who else might be at risk.

“It was explained to me that this person, (nurse) Nina Pham, was not on a monitoring list because she was self-monitoring,” said Judge Clay Jenkins, who is overseeing the county’s emergency response. Simply put, she and her co-workers, who were handing fluids, inserting IVs and cleaning Thomas Eric Duncan in his dying days, were supposed to take their own temperatures and let someone know if they felt sick.

That wasn’t nearly enough for Jenkins, and that evening, he began to make changes. Hospital officials told potentially exposed hospital workers to stop seeing patients other than Pham.

But the next day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allowed another nurse who cared for Duncan, Amber Vinson, to get on a plane in Ohio and fly to Dallas with a mild fever. She was later diagnosed with Ebola, and CDC Director Tom Frieden has conceded that she “should not have travelled on a commercial airline.”

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. 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.

“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.

A cruise ship with a Dallas health care worker aboard who is being monitored for signs of Ebola did not receive clearance to dock in Cozumel, Mexico, a day after Belize refused to let the passenger leave the vessel.

Obama administration officials said the passenger handled a lab specimen from a Liberian man who died from Ebola at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital earlier this month. Officials said the woman poses no risk because she has shown no signs of illness for 19 days and has voluntarily self-quarantined on the cruise ship, the Carnival Magic.

The cruise line said Friday that after not receiving clearance, the ship left Cozumel waters shortly after noon Friday with the goal of returning to its home port of Galveston Sunday morning as originally scheduled.

“We greatly regret that this situation, which was completely beyond our control, precluded the ship from making its scheduled visit to Cozumel and the resulting disappointment it has caused our guests,” Carnival said in a statement. Passengers will get a $200 credit on their ship accounts and a 50 percent discount for future cruises.

The Carnival Magic had also stopped in Belize but officials there would not allow the passenger to leave the vessel. In a statement, the Belize government said it had refused a U.S. government request to fly the woman home through the Belize City airport. Other passengers were allowed to disembark there.

Food deliveries in Sierra Leone to fight Ebola

The U.N.’s World Food Program on Saturday delivered emergency food rations to 265,000 people, many of them quarantined in Sierra Leone, to help fight the spread of Ebola.

Food supplies are being distributed in the Waterloo district on the outskirts of Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, WFP’s Alexis Masciarelli told the Associated Press.

Waterloo has seen some of the highest cases of Ebola infections and the deliveries are to help quarantined families by providing them enough to eat so they do not leave their homes to look for food. The deliveries began Friday and are continuing Saturday, said Masciarelli.

More countries have banned travelers from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, where the dreaded, fatal disease is believed to have claimed more than 4,500 lives.

University hospital designated Texas’ first Ebola treatment center

The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston has been chosen as the state’s first designated facility to treat Ebola patients, a move that will relieve pressure on hundreds of hospitals that have been scrambling to ensure they’re prepared for a case of the deadly virus.

Under the plan put into effect Friday by Gov. Rick Perry and Texas Health and Human Services Commissioner Kyle Janek, patients would be transferred from the hospital or clinic where screening determines they are infected with Ebola to UTMB’s John Sealy Hospital, where a trained, rapid response team would provide care.

“UTMB is a national center of excellence in high-consequence infections like Ebola,” said Dr. Brett Giroir, president of the Texas A&M Health Science Center and head of Perry’s recently named task force on Ebola and other infectious diseases. “It has the physical facilities, the worker protection systems and the scientific and clinical expertise to have an Ebola center second to none.”

The designation of UTMB was recommended by the task force. Its report also calls for UTMB to enlist leading experts employed in the Texas Medical Center to supplement staff if that would help.

Airline denies Ebola a concern as sick passenger is kept in lavatory

With hundreds of millions of people taking to the skies each year, sitting side by side in cramped planes, there are few places where the public is more on edge about catching something, anything, be it a harmless cold or a vicious virus.

But whatever happened Thursday night aboard an American Airlines trip from Dallas-Fort Worth to Chicago, Flight 2325 seemed to represent a microcosm of emotions surrounding Ebola.

Martha Selby, a University of Texas professor who was on the flight, said she was outraged by what she contends was a sick passenger who was told by flight attendants worried about Ebola that she would have to stay in the lavatory for the duration of the flight.

“The flight attendants, I think, over-reacted completely. It was just crazy,” she said.

But American Airlines counters that “there were no concerns related to Ebola.” American Airlines spokeswoman Michelle Mohr said, “Our crew saw a very sick woman that probably had food poisoning or something. She was so sick that she asked to remain in the lavatory for the duration of the flight.”

When the plane landed, all passengers were told to remain in their seats as emergency personnel boarded the plane and took the woman away.

Her carry-on bag was wrapped in plastic and taken with her, Selby said.

UN training Ebola survivors to treat children in West Africa

The United Nations has begun training Ebola survivors to help respond to the soaring number of cases in West Africa, because people who’ve overcome the disease are now immune to it.

The U.N. is training survivors to work with children in Liberia and Sierra Leone who’ve had contact with infected people, often family members, and require 21 days of isolation.

“Ebola has hijacked every aspect of life” in the hardest-hit countries, said Sarah Crowe, UNICEF’s crisis communications chief. The disease has left an estimated 3,700 orphans across the region.

Survivors of Ebola can offer the love and attention a small child needs, without the fear that has made life “a very unhuman experience,” she said.

Officials: Woman at Pentagon doesn’t have Ebola

Virginia public health authorities say the woman who became ill in the Pentagon parking lot, setting off an Ebola scare, does not have the virus.

Officials at Arlington and Fairfax counties’ public health departments say they are confident she does not have Ebola, based on her travel history and questioning by medical officials. They say she was put in isolation at Inova Fairfax Hospital, and that medical personnel took all needed precautions.

Pentagon police shut down a building entrance and a portion of the south parking lot Friday when the woman boarded a shuttle bus, then got off and vomited. Officials say she told them she had recently been in West Africa. Officials temporarily sequestered people on the bus and personnel who went to her aid.

UN: Ebola outbreak over in Senegal

The U.N. health agency officially declared an end Friday to the Ebola outbreak in Senegal, a rare bit of good news amid the public outcry and fear over the deadly disease that remains out of control in three West African countries.

Cases are still spreading in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, with more than 4,500 deaths.

A case of Ebola in Senegal was confirmed on Aug. 29 in a young man who had travelled by road to Dakar from Guinea, where he had direct contact with an Ebola patient. By September 5, laboratory samples from the patient tested negative, indicating that he had recovered from Ebola. He was able to return to Guinea on Sept. 18.

The declaration from WHO came because Senegal made it past the 42-day mark, which is twice the maximum incubation period for Ebola, without detecting more such cases.

1st Dallas nurse with Ebola in fair condition

The first nurse to be diagnosed with Ebola after treating an infected man at a Dallas hospital has been sitting up and eating and has her iPad after being moved to a specialized isolation unit near Washington, officials said Friday.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Friday that Nina Pham’s condition is stable and she is resting comfortably at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. He said she is “in good spirits.”

Pham, 26, arrived shortly before midnight Thursday and was admitted to the clinical studies unit. Doctors said her mother and sister also were in the Washington area.

Pham is being treated by staff specializing in infectious disease and critical care. The hospital has one of four such specialized isolation units in the country designed to handle highly infectious cases.

2nd Dallas nurse said she ‘felt funny’ in Ohio

A CDC official says a Texas nurse who has Ebola indicated she “felt funny” and spent extra time resting during a visit to Ohio in the days before she was diagnosed in Dallas.

Dr. Chris Braden says the woman didn’t have typical symptoms of Ebola when she flew to Cleveland on Oct. 10 or when she visited family in Akron last weekend. But he says health officials can’t rule out the possibility that her illness began last Saturday, or possibly earlier.

Officials say they’re monitoring the health of 16 people in northeast Ohio who had contact with 29-year-old Amber Vinson.

She had treated the Liberian man in Dallas who died of Ebola. The timing of her symptoms is important because people infected with Ebola aren’t considered contagious until they have symptoms.

Ohio gets more protective gear

Ohio health officials are increasing the state’s supply of personal protective equipment for health care providers in case that gear is needed for a suspected or confirmed case of Ebola. The state says new shipments are arriving daily, and the Department of Health is requesting approval from a legislative panel to spend $300,000 for more equipment. It also wants permission for up to $500,000 to dispose contaminated linens and other items if a case occurs.

The department says its existing equipment includes more than 105,000 gloves, 100,000 face masks, 29,000 respirators and 7,000 gowns. Hospitals have their own supplies, too.

Chimerix gets FDA OK to test drug for Ebola

A North Carolina drugmaker plans to test its experimental antiviral drug in patients who have Ebola, after getting authorization from regulators at the Food and Drug Administration.

Chimerix Inc. said Thursday that it has received FDA clearance to proceed with a trial examining the safety and effectiveness of its brincidofovir tablets in patients who have the virus. The company said in a statement that the drug is available for immediate use in testing.

With FDA’s permission, the Durham, North Carolina, drugmaker previously made the drug available to the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the U.S., who died in Dallas last week. The FDA does not publicly confirm when it has granted companies permission to begin testing. The agency has not approved any drugs or vaccines to treat Ebola.

Paris taps an Ebola czar

France’s government announced Friday it is strengthening its anti-Ebola efforts even though no cases have been detected in the country.

The prime minister appointed a prominent doctor, Jean-Francois Delfraissy, as Ebola “czar” to coordinate France’s international and national responses to the crisis.

With files from the Associated Press and the Houston Chronicle.

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