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US Sets New Protocols for Ebola Health Workers


The United States is tightening its guidelines for health workers treating patients with the Ebola virus, calling for new competency training, a buddy system for donning and doffing personal protective equipment, and total coverage of eyes, hair and skin.

Stricter protocols, expected to be issued Monday evening, build on earlier guidance from the World Health Organization. That international organization urged health workers to wear masks but did not require complete coverage of skin.

The developments come in the wake of at least three reported cases of Ebola in the United States. The virus has plagued West Africa, especially the countries countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, infecting more than 9,200 and killing more than 4,500.

News of new protocols comes on the same day that the WHO declared Nigeria free of the virus, after going 42 days with no new reported Ebola infections. It has had 20 cases.

WHO representative Rui Gama on Monday said Nigeria's development is a "spectacular success story."

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan issued a statement Monday praising Nigerians who worked to contain the disease, but also directed that all anti-Ebola measures remain in effect, including health screenings for people entering the country.

Nigerian health minister Onyebuchi Chukwu attributed the country's success to strong leadership and coordination.

"Under a single leadership, all the contributing partners were molded into a single, almost homogeneous team. This is one factor that we believe may be lacking in the control efforts of other countries," Chukwu said.

Chukwu added that Nigeria may have won its battle, but the global war on Ebola is not over.

Nigeria reported 20 cases of Ebola and eight deaths as part of the worst-ever outbreak of Ebola, which has killed more than 4,500 people in West Africa.

Last week, the WHO also declared Senegal Ebola-free.

Separately, a United Nations spokesman said a staff member from U.N. Women in Sierra Leone died of Ebola in recent days, and the victim's spouse is getting treatment.

Meanwhile, in the southwestern U.S. city of Dallas, Texas, officials announced Monday that the 21-day quarantine had been lifted on 43 people who had contact with the state's first Ebola patient, Liberian native Thomas Eric Duncan.

But Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said 120 other people are being watched for signs of the virus after having contact with one of the two nurses infected while caring for Duncan.

Also in the United States, health workers at a special Ebola treatment unit in the eastern city of Atlanta, Georgia, said another patient has recovered from the virus. The unidentified man was infected with Ebola while in Sierra Leone and was airlifted to Atlanta.

State Department sends personnel

The U.S. State Department said Monday it has 617 personnel in the Ebola-affected capitals of Monrovia, Liberia, and Dakar, Senegal, with plans to send 80 more people by Wednesday to aid with the crisis.

In another development Monday, Cuban leader Raul Castro urged Latin American leaders at a summit in Havana to work together to fight Ebola. He said Cuba was willing to work with the United States on that effort.

"We believe that any politicization of this grave problem should be avoided," Castro said. "It diverts us from the fundamental objective, which is the help to face this epidemic in Africa and prevention in other regions."

In Luxembourg Monday, European Union officials met to discuss the effort to collect $1.2 billion to aid the West African fight against Ebola. In a statement, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton said European officials are considering naming a person to coordinate anti-Ebola efforts between the European Union, member states and the United Nations.

Separately, a United Nations spokesman said a staff member from U.N. Women in Sierra Leone died of Ebola in recent days. It was the third such reported death of a U.N. worker.

Quicker response

Meanwhile, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf called for long-term investment in the health care infrastructure in order to prevent a repeat of the outbreak.

In a Washington Post op-ed, Sirleaf said the international reaction was slow, allowing Ebola to spread in a way that overwhelmed her country's health system.

She said the steps being taken now, such as U.S. soldiers helping set up treatment centers, would not be needed if the health care system were able to quickly and effectively respond at the beginning stages of an outbreak.

Sirleaf cited Uganda as an example where training and resources have enabled doctors to "recognize symptoms and isolate patients immediately" and also be protected themselves.

She said examining ways to prevent future outbreaks is the way to "properly honor" those who have died.

Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone have been the hardest hit by the outbreak, with more than 9,100 cases of Ebola.

The outbreak has spread to areas outside of West Africa, including Spain, where authorities say a nurse who contracted Ebola while caring for two infected priests now appears to be free of the disease, and in the United States, which has reported three cases of Ebola.

In Luxembourg Monday, European Union officials met to discuss the effort to collect $1.2 billion to aid the West African fight against Ebola.

In a statement, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton said European officials are considering naming a person to coordinate anti-Ebola efforts between the European Union, member states, and the United Nations.

And the U.S. State Department said it has 617 personnel in the Ebola-affected capitals of Monrovia and Dakar, with plans to send 80 more people by October 22 to aid with the crisis.

Guinea blames drivers for Ebola spike

Elsewhere, Guinean authorities blamed a spike in new Ebola cases at least in part on taxi and motorcycle drivers in Coyah, just 50 kilometers from Guinea's capital, Conakry.

Officials accused the drivers of going through the border town of Forecariah to bring in sick people from neighboring Sierra Leone.

The government also said the drivers transport sick people wanting to escape detection by medical personnel out of fear of dying in treatment centers.

Ibrahim Summah, the head of the drivers’ union in Coyah, said that is not true.

Summah told VOA the drivers have been at the forefront in the fight against Ebola from the beginning of the outbreak.

He said no drivers have been caught transporting an Ebola patient and, in fact, they refuse any passenger who refuses to wash with detergent before getting into the vehicle.

More suspicion has fallen on motorcycle drivers because it is easier for them to cross the border. But Abubakar Sylla, head of the motorcycle drivers union, said that is unfair.

Sylla said motorcycle drivers take proper passengers to their destination, and while they do transport some people to the hospital, they do not to take them across the border.

He said his drivers also ask passengers to use precautions - including washing with detergent and disinfectants.

More than 800 people have died of Ebola in Guinea since the outbreak began late last year. There are more than 1,000 confirmed cases now - with three new towns reporting their first cases.

Karim Camara contributed to this report from Coyah, Guinea.

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