- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Obama administration asked Congress Wednesday to fast-track a $6.2 billion request for the Ebola fight at home and abroad, as a Texas hospital averted a lawsuit over the first U.S. case of the deadly virus and a cluster of infections raised alarm in a new part of West Africa.

Cabinet officials told the Senate Appropriations Committee they need the money to train 250,000 U.S. doctors and nurses to safely treat Ebola, to speed up work on a vaccine and to bolster international efforts by U.S. aid agencies to combat the disease in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea — the three countries at the heart of the outbreak.

“We are seeing some promising signs on the ground, but it is clear that the epidemic is not yet controlled,” said Heather Higginbottom, a deputy secretary of state. “These resources are imperative to eradicating the Ebola outbreak at its source, which is the most effective way of protecting Americans here at home.”

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Committee Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski, Maryland Democrat, signaled her support for President Obama’s request for money, deeming the situation “urgent and temporary.” But Republicans on the panel were not so sure.

“Given the size of the request, the slow progress in detailing plans for how the money will be spent and some of the missteps made so far, it deserves our careful oversight and scrutiny,” said Sen. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the committee’s ranking Republican.

A Dallas hospital’s parent company on Wednesday tried to make up for some of those early mistakes, agreeing to pay an undisclosed sum to family members of Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian national who was mistakenly sent home with antibiotics after he reported to the emergency room. He was admitted two days later with severe symptoms, tested positive for Ebola and died on Oct. 10.

An attorney for the family said Texas Health Resources also apologized to the family in a letter and set up a charitable fund in Duncan’s memory to help people reeling from the virus in West Africa.

Two nurses contracted Ebola while treating Duncan but were cured and released from specialized treatment.

National Nurses United, the nation’s largest union of registered nurses, lambasted the lack of protective equipment and Ebola training for nurses in the wake of the diagnoses. On Wednesday, union members resurrected their concerns in rallies near the White House and in major cities across the country.

Nurses at Providence Hospital in the District went on strike, marching back and forth on the sidewalk to protest what they view as inadequate safety protocols. Their posters were not directed at Ebola specifically, and many of them left during the day to join the White House rally.

A doctor who worked in West Africa and tested positive in New York City was discharged Tuesday — closing the door on active Ebola cases in the U.S. — although lawmakers and health officials continue to debate quarantines or stricter measures for people traveling from affected countries.

“I think we should not rule out any reasonable options to prevent the reintroduction of Ebola in the U.S., including travel and visa restrictions,” Mr. Shelby said.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the average number of daily passengers from hard-hit West African countries has declined in recent weeks from about 150 per day to fewer than 100.

The Department of Defense said Wednesday the number of U.S. troops dedicated to fighting Ebola in the affected region will be capped at 3,000. Military members are charged with supporting logistics and infrastructure, and not treating actual patients.

While the fatality rate appears to be ebbing in West Africa, the World Health Organization confirmed a second death from Ebola in Mali, a West African nation that borders hard-hit Guinea.

A nurse died after treating a Guinea man who crossed the border and sought treatment. That patient also died, most likely of Ebola, although it could not be confirmed, and investigators are worried that people were exposed to the virus when they gave him ritual body washing rites at a mosque in Bamako, the capital city.

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