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First Ebola Patient Diagnosed in U.S. Dies

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PBS NewsHour

Doctors face tough treatment choices in the midst of the Ebola crisis


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JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: a closer look at the growing human toll Ebola is taking on the communities of West Africa, the epicenter of the current outbreak.

We have two updates from New York Times reporters who are working in the region.

The first is from Ben Solomon, who filed this video report from inside an Ebola treatment center in the countryside east of the Liberian capital, Monrovia.

GARMAI CYRUS, Psychosocial Officer and Nurse: What I see in the faces of the patients? Fear. Fear of the unknown. Right beside them, friends die. It’s so, so frightening. Is this how I’m going to end up, too?


GARMAI CYRUS: My job is to help them to see, amidst Ebola, that there’s still hope.


GARMAI CYRUS: I come here every morning. We sing to build up our hopes, then get prepared.

I’m a nurse. I’m a mental health clinician. And I work here as a psychosocial officer. When I go in, I’m like an aunt to them inside. Most of them refer to me as big sister.

It’s within my spirit to give care, do it without touching or so, but there are other things that we can do, like build their hope, make them to feel more confident that they can come in here and walk out.

At the moment, we are discharging. We have one patient who her test proved negative, and so we had to discharge her out.

What gives me the most, most hope, people come in here so frustrated and sick, and, after, they walk out of here. It makes me feel that I’m working and I’m able to do something. It makes me happy. It makes me feel fulfilled.

JUDY WOODRUFF: That report prepared by reporter Ben Solomon.

Sheri Fink has also been reporting from Liberia for The New York Times. In addition to her journalist credentials, she’s also a medical doctor. I spoke with her a short while ago over Skype from Monrovia.

Sheri Fink, welcome.

You have been writing some very moving stories recently, the overwhelming tragedy, but also some very tough decisions that the doctors have to make. Talk about that.

SHERI FINK, The New York Times: Yes.

One of the doctors here named Steven Hatch, he speaks of it as Solomonic decisions, and, really, every day brings some of these tough choices. Ebola treatment units, in a way, they’re kind of simple. They’re not a lot of advanced care that’s offered. In fact, it’s sort of a protocol. Every patient gets a mix of medicines when they come in to cover things like, you know, a coinfection with something like malaria.

Sometimes, you know, Ebola can reduce the effectiveness of the immune system. So people even get antibiotics, even though Ebola is a viral disease. So you would think it’s sort of simple fluids and some of these extra medicines, but, in fact, there are all these choices that have to be made.

For example, if you have somebody who tests negative, but then they develop symptoms while they’re in the suspect ward, well, then, you know, it’s possible that they still will turn positive. So do you keep them there and possibly expose them to other people who have Ebola in order to test them again?

And, you know, all these difficult choices come up, even with children. That’s another example, where, you know, a parent tests negative air, a child tests positive. So what do you in that situation?

JUDY WOODRUFF: You wrote about a mother who died, a pregnant woman who died and had to make a decision about what to do with the infant when it was born.

You also wrote about another mother who lost an infant and how she struggled with an infection and her treatment.


I think these were two of the more really heart-rending stories. I guess there are stories like that every day. And they really sort of emphasize why the doctors and nurses who I have been chronicling for the last few weeks, they feel a lot of joy when people survive.

But they get — over time, they realize that what the world has to offer for people who have Ebola just isn’t quite there. So even take the pregnant woman. It turns out that Ebola is very highly — you know, it’s even more fatal in people who are pregnant, and, you know, just the tragedy of that alone.

This particular woman, they didn’t know if she had Ebola. She hemorrhaged after having a spontaneous childbirth of an eight-month-old — eight months into her pregnancy. And she went from hospital to hospital while she was still alive, while she was, you know, struggling to survive.

No hospitals would let her in, because that’s kind of a classic presentation with Ebola, and highly infectious, obviously, if there’s blood. So finally, the car with her parents and the lady and her baby make it to the Ebola treatment unit. And, by that point, she had passed away. But the doctors and nurses had to struggle with this decision of, what do we do with this infant?

They had no idea. Could the infant be positive? There’s not a lot of science around that or data or information, because we just haven’t studied this disease as much as it would have been good to do. So they made the best choice they could. They sent the baby home with the grandparents, and you know, with gloves, with formula, in the hopes that they could give the child a chance at surviving.

The child died three days later. And then two weeks after that, the mother, who had helped deliver her — the grandmother who had helped deliver her daughter’s baby and had cared for the baby ended up coming down with Ebola and dying in the clinic. So these are the sort of — like, if you stay there long enough, you see how this disease moves through families that way.

And, again, it’s those high-risk contacts, the real contact with the body fluids that seems to be the theme over and over again.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right. Just — just terrible.

Finally, Sheri Fink, the last story you wrote, despite all this, is surprisingly low numbers of patients being treated in these newest hospitals around Monrovia, where you are.

SHERI FINK: Actually, it seems to be a pattern across the country.

Now we have the WHO saying that there really has been, they believe, a slowdown in that upsurge in infections. And they really emphasize it’s not a reason to pull back on any of the plans, because there are large swathes of the country that don’t have treatment units.

And that’s part of what the U.S. is doing is trying to build and staff these treatment units that are in distant parts of the country, where there’s not great surveillance. There aren’t good options for people who have no access to cars, no cell phone service, and just — also just these really bad roads, frankly.

So, right now, it’s hard for them to be safe. You know, you have a family member who is sick. If you have to wait two days to get somebody to get them to a treatment unit, or if they die, to have a safe burial, that’s really tough.

So what the numbers are suggesting is there is some positive news, that some of these interventions that we have seen so much work on in the last few weeks and months may be starting to slow this epidemic, which is great news, but certainly not a reason to let up, according to the experts here.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Sheri Fink reporting from the front lines there in Liberia, we thank you.

SHERI FINK: Thanks a lot.

The post Doctors face tough treatment choices in the midst of the Ebola crisis appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

How to help Ebola relief efforts

         carry food cans during a food distribution by the World Food Program in Dolo Town, Liberia, east of the capital Monrovia,
         on Sept. 2. Photo by Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images

Boys carry food cans during a food distribution by the World Food Program in Dolo Town, Liberia, east of the capital Monrovia, on Sept. 2. Photo by Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images

This year’s Ebola outbreak is the worst of its kind with more than 13,000 confirmed or suspected infections and nearly 5,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

Short-term needs include everything from more cell phones to hospital beds. In the longer term, the virus has reversed development efforts in West African countries that were just recovering from conflict.

A massive international relief effort is underway. Individuals can learn more about what some organizations are doing and how to contribute by clicking on the links below:

The World Food Program, in addition to distributing food, coordinates the Ebola humanitarian effort, provides medical kits and other supplies, and transports workers and cargo to the affected countries.

Health workers from the Liberian Red Cross are distributing food and supplies to residents, removing victims of Ebola from homes, and preparing graves to keep the virus from spreading. You can earmark your donation for the Ebola relief effort on the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ webpage.

Doctors Without Borders operates six Ebola treatment centers in the most affected West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and has managed thousands of patients. In an effort to slow the spread of the disease within households, where families take care of the sick before they can get medical treatment, the organization has distributed hundreds of thousands of disinfectant kits.

AmeriCares is helping its partners in Liberia map containment strategies and is shipping medicines and emergency equipment, including personal protective gear, to health workers.

UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, is educating communities about Ebola through radio programs, leaflets and door-to-door information campaigns. UNICEF supplies Ebola treatment centers, equips health workers, provides mental health and social workers, and trains Ebola survivors to care for children at treatment centers.

Save the Children is helping build Ebola centers, taking care of orphans and teaching children about the disease.

Oxfam is supplying water, hygiene equipment and sanitation to treatment and community care centers.

USAID’s Center for International Disaster Information lists dozens of more nongovernmental organizations that are assisting in the Ebola effort.

The post How to help Ebola relief efforts appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

News Wrap: WHO reports Ebola deaths may be slowing


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GWEN IFILL: The Ebola death rate in West Africa may be slowing. The World Health Organization reported today that total cases now top 13,700, but fatalities remain at just under 5,000. That’s partly due to the death toll in Liberia being revised downward.

Meanwhile, President Obama renewed his warning that quarantine policies that might discourage doctors and nurses from volunteering in West Africa.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We can’t hermetically seal ourselves off. The nature of international travel and movement means that the only way to assure that we are safe is to make sure that we have dealt with the disease where right now it’s most acute.

GWEN IFILL: Before the president spoke, the Pentagon announced that all U.S. troops who serve in West Africa will be placed in 21-day quarantine. And health officials in California ordered the same restriction for anyone who has traveled to West Africa if they have had contact with Ebola patients.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A legal battle is shaping up between the state of Maine and a nurse who treated Ebola patients in Sierra Leone. State officials said today they will get a court order to enforce a home quarantine of Kaci Hickox, who has tested negative. She had already spent three days under medical isolation in New Jersey.

Today, in a Skype interview, Hickox told ABC she will challenge Maine’s policy.

KACI HICKOX, Quarantined Nurse: I remain really concerned by these mandatory quarantine policies from aid workers. I think we’re just only adding to stigmatization that again is not based on science or evidence. And if these restrictions are not removed for me from the state of Maine by tomorrow morning, Thursday morning, I will go to court to attain my freedom.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Officials in Maine want Hickox to remain home for 21 days since her last contact with an Ebola patient.

GWEN IFILL: The Federal Reserve has officially ended its long-running economic stimulus effort. Citing an improved economy, policy-makers at the Central Bank announced today they have completed phasing out their bond-buying program. But they also said, again, they mean to maintain short-term rates near zero for — quote — “a considerable time.”

JUDY WOODRUFF: Reinforcements from two sources headed to the Syrian town of Kobani today to battle Islamic State forces. Activists said 50 rebels from the Free Syrian Army faction entered Kobani from neighboring Turkey. Separately, about 150 Iraqi Peshmerga troops traveled by convoy through Turkey. They have the blessing of the Turkish government, and Turkish residents cheered their passage.

GWEN IFILL: A monsoon mudslide hit Sri Lanka today. The disaster management minister reported more than 100 dead, with upwards of 300 others missing. The mudslide was triggered by heavy rain that inundated the island nation’s central hills. It hit this morning and wiped out a number of workers’ homes at a tea plantation.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, White House officials said they’re acting to address a breach of its unclassified computer network. The Washington Post reported today that investigators believe hackers working for the Russians were behind the attack in recent weeks.

At the White House, Press Secretary Josh Earnest declined to speculate.

JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary: There are a number of nations and organizations around the globe that are engaged in efforts to collect information about U.S. government activity. And it’s not a surprise. We’re certainly aware of the fact that those individuals or organizations or even countries might view the White House computer network as a valuable source of information.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Post report said there’s no evidence that any classified networks were hacked.

GWEN IFILL: The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating whether Medicare and Medicaid employees leaked information to stock traders. Today’s Wall Street Journal says three separate inquiries are looking at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency that oversees the programs. One involves allegations that an outside firm was tipped off in advance about a prostate cancer treatment.

JUDY WOODRUFF: With the Fed announcing the end of its stimulus program today, Wall Street fell back a little. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 31 points to close at 16974; the Nasdaq dropped 15 points to close at 4549; and the S&P 500 slipped two to finish at 1982.

The post News Wrap: WHO reports Ebola deaths may be slowing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

California orders 21-day quarantine on travelers from Ebola-afflicted countries

Medical staff wearing protective suits work at the Carlos III hospital in Madrid on October 10, 2014. California is now
         instating its own 21-day quarantines for travelers arriving from an Ebola-affected West African country who have also had
         contact with anybody carrying the virus. Photo by Curto de la Torre?AFP/Getty Images

Medical staff wearing protective suits work at the Carlos III hospital in Madrid on October 10, 2014. California is now instating its own 21-day quarantines for travelers arriving from an Ebola-affected West African country who have also had contact with anybody carrying the virus. Photo by Curto de la Torre?AFP/Getty Images

Passengers who arrive in California from an Ebola-stricken West African country and have had contact with an infected patient will face a 21-day quarantine, state health officials said Wednesday.

“This order will allow local health officers to determine, for those coming into California, who is most at risk for developing this disease, and to contain any potential spread of infectious disease by responding to those risks appropriately,” said Ron Chapman, the state’s public health director, in a statement.

Chapman added that travelers who have been in the affected countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, but not come into contact with the virus, will not be considered high risk and won’t be quarantined.

Anyone who doesn’t comply with the quarantine guidelines could face misdemeanor criminal charges, the Los Angeles Times reported.

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