US establishing ‘Ebola response teams’ to contain epidemic

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that “Ebola response teams” are being assembled that will be able to deploy “within hours” to any hospital in the United States.

"For any hospital anywhere in the country that has a confirmed case of Ebola, we will put a team on the ground within hours," CDC Director Tom Frieden said during a Tuesday afternoon press conference at the group’s headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.

The US response to the spread of Ebola came under harsh criticism after a Liberian national was sent home from a Dallas, Texas hospital despite demonstrating symptoms of the disease and informing medical staff that he had recently traveled to West Africa. The patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, eventually was re-hospitalized and received treatment for Ebola. However, he died more than a week later. Now one of the nurses who treated him, Nina Pham, has tested positive for the disease and officials in Dallas are on high alert for other cases. Pham was in “clinically stable” condition as of Monday this week.Director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tom Frieden (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images / AFP)

Seventy-six individuals who cared for Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the US, are being closely monitored, Frieden said at Tuesday’s conference, but they have yet to demonstrate any symptoms of the deadly disease that has only recently reached America.

Frieden warned more than two months ago that American travelers would “inevitably” spread the disease to the US and, that same month, an inspector’s general report concluded that the Department of Homeland Security “has no assurance it has sufficient personal protective equipment and antiviral medical countermeasures for a pandemic response.”

At Tuesday’s presser, Frieden said CDC officials have yet to determine what “specific interaction” between Duncan and Pham led to the nurse contracting the disease. Meanwhile, thousands of other health workers across the US have launched several social media campaigns to show their support for the nurse. A “Nurses for Nina” group has been liked by more than 4,500 accounts on Facebook, Reuters reported on Tuesday, as similar groups sprout up across the web.

The Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital (Mike Stone / Getty Images / AFP)

"I am blessed by the support of family and friends and am blessed to be cared for by the best team of doctors and nurses in the world here atTexas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas,” Pham said in a statement on Tuesday.

Ashoka Mukpo, a freelance cameraman for NBC News who contracted Ebola as well, began live-tweeting his progress on Monday this week while being cared for at a facility in Nebraska.

“Now that I've had first hand exp[erience] with this scourge of a disease, I'm even more pained at how little care sick west Africans are receiving,” Mukpo tweeted.

That same day, the Washington Post published an editorial authored by RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United, in which she said that a lack of uniform standards across the US with regards to treating Ebola had left the country all too vulnerable to an outbreak.

World Health Organization's Assistant Director General Bruce Aylward (AFP Photo / Fabrice Coffrini)

We know what works: a federal agency with the authority to ensure local, state and national coordination in response to outbreaks. In such an empowered public health system, local health officials are assured of having the resources to identify the source of an outbreak, isolate and treat the sick, and follow up with those who have had close contact with the sick,” she wrote. “Only greater integration and the authority of a public health system with national, uniform standards can protect Americans.”

The infection control protocols for Ebola have to be redoubled, Dr. Eric Bortz from the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alaska Anchorage, told RT.

“They have to be drilled on and it has to be taken very seriously. It has to be practiced more, basically. And the results of the investigation, what happened there, have to be released and have to be used to improve the level of preparation in hospitals throughout the United States."

The World Health Organization warned on Tuesday that the death rate from the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa — the worst of its kind — has risen to 70 percent. According to the Associated Press, Dr. Bruce Aylward, the assistant director-general of WHO, said up to 100,000 new Ebola cases a week could surface in the coming months if an international effort to control the disease is not stepped up.