- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Dallas nurse who contracted Ebola while caring for an infected patient said Tuesday she is “doing well,” even as officials announced measures to keep health care workers safe and avoid missteps that may have let the deadly virus spread to a second person in the U.S.

Nina Pham, 26, is in stable condition at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas after health workers confirmed her diagnosis over the weekend. She is the first person to contract the virus in America, prompting widespread concern among nurses who say they are ill-equipped or trained to deal with Ebola.

Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said those complaints are coming through “loud and clear.”

In a new move, expert teams will be available to respond within hours to any new Ebola cases around the country. The teams will be specially trained in treating Ebola and can decide whether the patient should be transferred to another facility.

“Caring for Ebola can be done safely, but it’s hard,” Dr. Frieden said.

His announcement came less than 24 hours after an aid worker died from Ebola at a hospital in Germany, and world health officials said “a lot more people will die” unless the world steps up its response to the epidemic in West Africa in the next 60 days.

Dr. Bruce Aylward of the World Health Organization said at a news conference Tuesday in Geneva that the death rate from Ebola has risen from 50 percent to 70 percent.

Congress has asked Dr. Frieden and other experts to testify about its Ebola response at a House hearing Thursday.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest brushed off the notion of an “Ebola czar,” saying the federal government is doing an effective job of containing the virus with its existing structure.

“At this point we have a structure in place in which the CDC and HHS are responsible for the efforts to contain Ebola in this country,” he said. “At this point, we have a clear line of responsibility, and that’s what we’ve been using so far.”

But Dr. Frieden, acknowledging gaps in the early response in Dallas, said he wished they had a fast-response team in place when Thomas Eric Duncan tested positive just days after arriving in Texas from Liberia. Duncan died last week, and Ms. Pham was among 70 health care workers who treated him.

She exhibited symptoms of Ebola during self-monitoring for the virus, even though she wore a full body suit in Duncan’s isolation room. Doctors are hoping a blood transfusion from Dr. Kent Brantly, an American aid worker who overcame the virus, will help her recover.

“I’m doing well and want to thank everyone for their kind wishes and prayers,” Ms. Pham said in a statement through Texas Health Resources.

Dr. Frieden said dozens of people who came into contact with Duncan are two-thirds of the way through the incubation period for Ebola and have not shown any symptoms. Even so, U.S. officials are ramping up webinars, conference calls and other training to make sure every hospital in the country is able to diagnose and care for an Ebola patient.

Yet the picture abroad remains dire, particularly in the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, where more than 4,400 people have died from the epidemic.

According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, two-thirds of Americans support restricting entry into the United States by people who have been in countries affected by the Ebola virus and nine in 10 support stricter screenings of people coming into the U.S. from such countries.

Sixty-seven percent of Americans support restricting people from coming into the country as part of dealing with the outbreak and 91 percent support stricter screening.

The question is also roiling political campaigns across the country ahead of the November midterms.

“The time to consider stopping flights coming in from West Africa has passed,” said Ed Gillespie, a Republican trying to unseat Democrat Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia. “It’s time to impose a flight ban, which is exactly what this administration should do.”

Ben Wolfgang and David Sherfinski contributed to this report.

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