Spain Ebola nurse improves as world tries to stem virus
A suspect case was ruled out in Brazil, where a Guinean man tested negative for Ebola, the health ministry said, but fears of contagion persisted in Europe.
Attention there focused on Madrid-based nurse Teresa Romero, 44, the first person diagnosed as having caught the disease outside Africa.
Spanish government officials were locked in a meeting on Saturday to coordinate their response to the crisis.
Romero’s condition “improved in the night. She is conscious and talks from time to time when she is in a good mood,” a hospital source told AFP.
Her condition “is serious but is improving”, the source said.
Sixteen other people, mostly hospital staff, are under observation at the Carlos III hospital where Romero is being treated. The hospital said one of them was expecting final test results and could be discharged Saturday.
Doctors started treating Romero with the experimental Ebola treatment ZMapp late on Friday, the source added.
There is still no vaccine or widely available treatment for Ebola, but ZMapp, made in California, is one of several drugs that have been fast-tracked for development.
Romero is thought to have contracted the disease in late September in a Madrid hospital while caring for a Spanish missionary infected with Ebola in Africa who later died.
- Hoaxes fuel Ebola fear –
The sharp rise in deaths came as the UN said aid pledges to fight the outbreak have fallen well short of the $1 billion (800 million euros) needed.
The Spanish health ministry on Friday called on citizens “to continue their daily activities normally,” after a series of hoaxes fuelled fears of wider contagion.
Police said on Saturday they had arrested a man in the southern Spanish city of Cadiz who they said had triggered a safety alert by pretending to have Ebola symptoms.
Officials at the Madrid hospital insisted there was no risk of infection from patients under observation, including Romero’s husband, who were photographed leaning out of the windows of their hospital rooms.
- Disease safety drills –
Britain held a nationwide exercise on Saturday to test its preparedness for an Ebola outbreak.
The eight-hour exercise featured actors pretending to be infected with Ebola plus medical staff treating them at undisclosed locations around the country.
Britain and the United States have boosted screening at major airports such as London Heathrow and JFK in New York.
In Latin America, Peru and Uruguay have announced similar airport measures and Mexico and Nicaragua planned to tighten controls of migrants heading for US soil as an Ebola precaution.
The Canadian government advised its citizens to leave the west African countries most affected by Ebola. It took measures at its own borders to screen for potentially exposed travellers.
- More money needed –
The United Nations and leaders of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone pleaded for greater help on the frontline of the disease in Africa.
UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson said only a quarter of “the one billion dollars sought” to combat the disease had been pledged. He appealed for doctors, nurses and other healthcare personnel to come forward.
The president of Guinea met Friday with International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde, who promised the organisation was “ready to do more if needed.”
Ebola concern spread to the sports world, with hosts Morocco calling for the January-February 2015 Africa Cup of Nations to be postponed, but the African Football Confederation said the schedule would not be changed.
WHO: Ebola death toll rises to more than 4,000
Madrid (AFP) – Countries across the world scrambled Saturday to stem a deadly Ebola outbreak that is getting worse “every day”, as the condition of a Spanish nurse infected with the disease improved.
Travellers were screened and safety drills were carried out as a UN official just back from west Africa warned the disease, which has killed more than 4,000 people there, was outpacing efforts to fight it.
“The virus is far ahead of us and every day the situation gets worse,” the head of the United Nations’ emergency Ebola mission Anthony Banbury, told UN leaders after a tour of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, the nations worst hit by the epidemic.
“Collectively we must stop the spread to other countries and ensure that countries are prepared to rapidly detect, control, and eliminate the virus if it is introduced.”
MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) — Liberian lawmakers on Friday rejected a proposal to grant President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf the power to further restrict movement and public gatherings and to confiscate property in the fight against Ebola. One legislator said such a law would have turned Liberia into a police state.
The proposal’s defeat came as the World Health Organization once again raised the death toll attributed to the Ebola outbreak. The Geneva-based U.N. agency said that 4,033 confirmed, probable or suspected Ebola deaths have now been recorded.
All but nine of them were in the three worst-affected countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Eight of the rest were in Nigeria, with one patient dying in the United States.
On Friday, David Nabarro, the U.N. special envoy for Ebola, said the number of Ebola cases is probably doubling every three-to-four weeks and the response needs to be 20 times greater than it was at the beginning of October.
He warned the U.N. General Assembly that without the mass mobilization of the world to support the affected countries in West Africa, “it will be impossible to get this disease quickly under control, and the world will have to live with the Ebola virus forever.”
Nabarro said the U.N. knows what needs to be done to catch up to and overtake Ebola’s rapid advance “and together we’re going to do it.”
The defeat of Sirleaf’s proposal in the House of Representatives came as U.S. military forces worked on building a hospital for stricken health workers in Liberia, the country that has been hit hardest by the epidemic.
“The House felt it was not necessary to grant her additional measures,” Speaker Alex Tyler told The Associated Press. He spoke after lawmakers rejected the president’s proposal to give her further power to restrict movement and public gatherings and the authority to appropriate property “without payment of any kind or any further judicial process” to combat Ebola.
Liberia has recorded 2,316 deaths during the Ebola outbreak, according to the World Health Organization — more than any other country. Sirleaf’s government imposed a three-month state of emergency beginning Aug. 6, but critics have accused the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s approach to fighting Ebola since then as ineffective and heavy handed.
“I see a kind of police state creeping in,” lawmaker Bhofal Chambers, a one-time Sirleaf supporter, said before the vote.
In August, a quarantine of Monrovia’s largest shantytown sparked unrest and was derided as counterproductive before being lifted. The Committee to Protect Journalists has accused Sirleaf’s government of trying to silence media outlets criticizing its conduct.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military was rushing to set up a 25-bed hospital to treat health workers who may contract Ebola. Rear Adm. Scott Giberson, the acting U.S. Deputy Surgeon General, said the facility would be ready within weeks.
“We’re in training right now. As you may know, not everybody is fully experienced in seeing Ebola related care of patients,” Giberson said. “We have experience deploying in lots of medical settings. However, this is unique.”
The arrival of 100 U.S. Marines on Thursday brings to just over 300 the total number of American troops in Liberia. The Marines and their aircraft will help with air transportation and ferrying of supplies, overcoming road congestion in Monrovia and bad roads outside the capital, said Capt. R. Carter Langston, spokesman for the U.S. mission. A priority will be transporting building materials to treatment unit sites. The U.S. has said it will oversee construction of 17 treatment units with 100 beds each.
The 101st Airborne Division is expected to deploy 700 troops by late October. The U.S. may send up to 4,000 soldiers to help with the Ebola crisis, though officials have stressed that number could change depending on needs.
In a call with reporters on Wednesday, USAID assistant administrator Nancy Lindborg said six treatment units were operational in Liberia. She said about 250 beds had come online in the last ten days or so, and that beds would come online in waves until the end of November.
In Mali, a health ministry spokesman said two more people had begun participating in the first phase of a study for a possible Ebola vaccine. Mali has not had any cases of Ebola, but it borders the outbreak zone. University of Maryland researchers announced Thursday that the first study of a possible vaccine was underway, and that three health care workers in Mali had received the experimental shots developed by the U.S. government.
“Today, we are at five people vaccinated,” health ministry spokesman Markatie Daou said. “We envision vaccinating between 20 and 40 people for this first phase and the results are expected next month.”
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, meanwhile, visited the Madrid hospital where a nursing assistant infected with Ebola is being treated.
Teresa Romero was scheduled to start receiving the experimental anti-Ebola drug ZMapp, which is in extremely short supply worldwide, a spokeswoman for Madrid’s regional health agency said on condition of anonymity because of agency rules.
Romero contracted Ebola in Madrid while helping treat a Spanish missionary who became infected in West Africa, and later died. She is the first person known outside of West Africa to have caught the disease in the current outbreak.
Rajoy praised Spanish health care workers and said the World Health Organization thinks “the risk is very low that this disease will spread in the future” in Spain and Europe.
Corey-Boulet reported from Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Associated Press journalists Wade Williams in Monrovia, Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations, Ciaran Giles in Madrid, and Baba Ahmed in Bamako, Mali, contributed to this report.