The nation’s top health officials tried to assure Congress that they can halt the spread of the Ebola virus in the U.S. despite mistakes that allowed two nurses to get the infection from a patient. Some lawmakers pressed for a ban on travel to the U.S. from the region — a course President Barack Obama is resisting.
A look at the top Ebola developments worldwide Thursday:
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention testified in front of lawmakers on Capitol Hill a day after the revelation that one of the nurses was cleared to fly on an airline shortly before she was diagnosed.
Despite the latest infections, the CDC remains “confident that our public health and health care systems can prevent an Ebola outbreak here,” agency Director Tom Frieden said.
The chairman of a House committee cited “demonstrated failures” in the government’s response. Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania said the “trust and credibility of the administration and government are waning as the American public loses confidence.”
President Barack Obama directed his administration to respond in a “much more aggressive way” to the threat and, for the second day in a row, canceled his out-of-town trips to stay in Washington and monitor the Ebola response.
THE SITUATION IN SPAIN
Four people with fever considered at risk for Ebola were being tested in Spain, including one who arrived on an Air France jet that was isolated at Madrid’s airport as a precaution, officials said.
Other passengers were allowed to disembark. But a passenger with a fever who had traveled from Nigeria was taken by ambulance to a hospital. The driver wore protective gear.
THE INFECTED NURSES
The first Dallas nurse to have contracted Ebola after treating an infected Liberian man was to be moved to a specialized medical facility in Maryland.
Nina Pham, 26, will be taken from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. The facility has one of four biocontainment units in the United States. Hospital officials said Pham was in good condition, and it was not immediately clear why she was being moved.
A second nurse who tested positive, 29-year-old Amber Joy Vinson, has been transferred to a biohazard infectious disease center at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
University of Minnesota officials tried to discredit a tweet claiming the school’s researchers say Ebola is airborne.
University spokeswoman Caroline Marin told the Star Tribune in Minneapolis that the university never made such a claim.
In fact, the tweet refers to a commentary posted a month ago on a university website that was written by Chicago-based researchers who were debating Ebola’s “potential to be transmitted” to health workers by aerosolized virus particles, and thus what protective gear they should wear.
World health authorities have been clear that Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids, and that blood, vomit and feces carry the most virus.
THE OVERALL TOLL
The death toll from Ebola is expected to rise this week to more than 4,500 people out of 9,000 infected, a top official with the U.N. health agency said.
Dr. Isabelle Nuttall, director of the World Health Organization’s global capacities, said the focus of the world’s efforts should remain on the countries where the disease has spread out of control: Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
“Our data shows that cases are doubling every four weeks,” she said.