US health system will 'stop' Ebola: WH officials

Gov. Jindal: Stop flights from Ebola stricken countries
Gov. Jindal: Stop flights from Ebola stricken countries   

The Obama administration vowed Friday that it is taking action "to stop Ebola in its tracks," even as fears persisted that the deadly virus will spread in the U.S.

"The US is equipped to deal with this, both at home and in the region" of West Africa where Ebola is epidemic, said White House official Lisa Monaco.

"Every Ebola outbreak in the past 40 years has been stopped," Monaco noted. "We know how to do this, and we will do it again."

Officials outlined their ongoing strategy to contain the virus, which has lead to at least one diagnosis of someone in the U.S. so far, in Dallas, and the monitoring of 50 people who had contact with him. That strategy includes sending U.S. troops to West Africa in an effort to contain the spread of the virus there, ramping up monitoring efforts and accelerating efforts to develop a vaccine.

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Officials also said the health-care system of the U.S. was the best in the world and the best prepared to beat back the spread of the disease in the country.

"We recognize the concern that even a single case of Ebola creates on our shores," said Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell. "But we have public health systems and public health providers in place to control the spread of this disease."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of infectious disease efforts at the National Institute of Health, said the U.S. "is well-equipped to stop Ebola in its tracks."

Fauci emphasized that, "although Ebola is an extremely serious viral disease, with a high fatality rate, it is not easily transmitted."

"You must come into direct contact with the bodily fluids of a sick person," said Fauci, noting that the virus is not transmitted through the air, as the flu is.

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And, it is "important" to note, that "individuals who are not symptomatic are not contagious."

Meanwhile, a contractor is set to begin decontaminating the Dallas apartment where the man diagnosed with the Ebola virus had been visiting relatives, a judge said Friday.

At the same time, health officials said that 50 people who had contact or may have had contact with the infected man, Thomas Eric Duncan, are being closely monitored for symptoms of the deadly disease. So far, none of those individuals have shown any symptoms of Ebola, and all of them are doing "well," an official said.

That said, "We need to monitor them closely," said that official, Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, during a telephone media briefing Friday.

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Lakey said that most of those 50 monitored people are at low risk of infection, but 10 are considered to be at "high risk." Many are hospital workers, as well as ambulance workers who had contact with Duncan, who is the first person diagnosed with the disease while in the US.

Duncan remains in serious condition as Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. Meanwhile, the apartment where he had been living is been decontaminated by a cleanup crew.

Centers for Disease Control chief Dr. Thomas Frieden, who was supposed to attend the briefing for media, instead met national business leaders to discuss how leaders were dealing with the Ebola case in Dallas, officials said.

Dallas Ebola patient in serious condition
Dallas Ebola patient in serious condition   

Also Friday, testing continued on a person hospitalized in Washington, DC, who potentially has Ebola.

But Dr. Beth Bell, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control's center for emerging diseases, said there is no evidence yet that person has the disease.

An NBC News freelance cameraman, Ashoka Mukpo, has been diagnosed with Ebola while working with an NBC crew covering the outbreak of the disease in the West African country of Liberia. Mukpo, who so far has mild symptoms, is scheduled to be brought back to the US for treatment.

Mukpo's father, Dr. Mitchell Levy, told the TODAY show on Friday that his son is "scared and worried ... but his spirits are better today."

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Mukpo remains in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, but is scheduled to be flown Sunday to the United States. His father told NBC News that Mukpo will be treated at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, where he is scheduled to arrive Monday morning. That is the same hospital which treated Dr. Richard Sacra, who was stricken with Ebola last month.

Sacra, who was infected in Africa, was discharged after three weeks in the hospital's Biocontainment Center on Sept. 25.

"We are ready, willing and able to care for this patient," said Dr. Phil Smith, medical director of that unit, in a press release announcing Mukpo's planned treatment there. The release had not mentioned Mukpo's name.

Another doctor there, Angela Hewlett, said, "The experience we have in treating Dr. Sacra should prove to be very valuable in treating this patient."

Also Friday, the Cobb County Jail in Georgia is not accepting any more inmates because an inmate there, who said he had recently traveled to Africa, developed a fever, according to WSB-TV. That inmate had been arrested in the past day for DUI.

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In Texas, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins told reporters that several of Duncan's relatives, who remain quarantined, under armed guard, in their Dallas apartment where he fell ill, are under "an enormous amount of tension and stress.

"Imagine waiting in those conditions to be monitored," Jenkins said.

Duncan's family will remain in the apartment during Friday's scheduled decontamination "and it is safe for them to do so," said Judge Jenkins.

Duncan's relatives have been quarantined in the house, under armed guard, as he remains hospitalized during treatment.

Jenkins said, "Dallas County has contracted with a private entity to decontaminate the apartment and they have conducted an initial site assessment."

"This morning the contractor was dispatched to the apartment and will arrive in the next few hours to begin clean-up," Jenkins said. "Is it estimated that the clean-up will take approximately three hours. The family will remain in the apartment during this time and it is safe for them to do so."

The CDC's Bell said the US government is jump-starting efforts to develop a vaccine for Ebola.

"A couple of vaccine(s) are currently being investigated," Bell said. "We're working very hard to accelerate this, and of course we really need to be.

""This is a very, very high priority for us, and we are working very hard in this area," Bell said.

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Despite repeated warnings by CDC that the public should not panic about the spread of Ebola, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on Friday called on President Obama to stop flights coming into the US from countries stricken by the virus.

"We should stop accepting flights from countries that are Ebola stricken," Jindal said. "Even countries in Africa have cut back on or stopped accepting flights from countries with Ebola outbreaks."

-By CNBC's Dan Mangan and Meg Tirrell