Oct 9, 2014 10:46 AM

US military aircraft arrive in Liberia

The Associated Press

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) Presidents of several West African countries ravaged by Ebola pleaded for aid at the World Bank on Thursday as the U.S. military ramped up its efforts in Liberia, the country that has been hardest hit by the disease.

"Our people are dying," Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma said by videoconference at a World Bank meeting in Washington on the Ebola response. He called the epidemic "a tragedy unforeseen in modern times" and said the world is not responding fast enough as children are orphaned and doctors and nurses keep dying.

A Uganda-born doctor, John Taban Dada, died early Thursday of Ebola at a treatment center on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia's capital. Liberian Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah said the gynecologist and surgeon was to be immediately buried.

His death brings to four the number of doctors who have died in Liberia since the outbreak. More than 90 health workers, including nurses and physician assistants, have also died.

Two U.S. military flights were due to arrive Thursday at an airport outside Monrovia, Army Capt. R. Carter Langston told The Associated Press in an email.

Critics say Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's handling of the crisis has been heavy handed and ineffective. Police used batons and rattan whips to disperse 100 protesters Thursday outside the National Assembly, where lawmakers were debating granting her even more powers beyond those contained in a state of emergency declared in August. Liberian state radio announced that Senate elections scheduled for next week would be postponed. No new date was given.

The outbreak has killed more than 3,800 people, according to the latest World Health Organization figures. The vast majority of those deaths have been in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The U.S. military is working to build medical centers in Liberia and may send up to 4,000 soldiers to help with the Ebola crisis. Medical workers and beds for Ebola patients are sorely lacking. Liberia and Sierra Leone, for instance, have only enough beds for about 21 percent and 26 percent of their needs, respectively, WHO said Wednesday.

British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said his country would provide more than 750 troops to help build treatment centers and an Ebola "training academy" in Sierra Leone. Army medics and helicopters will provide direct support. Britain will also contribute an aviation support ship.

British troops are expected to arrive next week in Sierra Leone, where they will join military engineers and planners who have been there for nearly a month helping to construct medical centers.

The German military has started flying material such as protective clothing from Senegal to the worst-hit countries. A German military advance team plans to head to Monrovia on Friday to prepare the way for a wider aid deployment expected to start in mid-November. The military is expected to set up a clinic for 50 patients.

Meanwhile, Sierra Leone officials finally released a shipping container filled with medical gear and mattresses that had been held up at the port for more than a month.

Ibrahim Bangura, an official who handles medical supplies, said the container's contents were finally in his possession on Thursday. Bureaucracy and political infighting were blamed for delay in distributing the aid.

In Guinea, where the first Ebola cases were confirmed back in March, Doctors Without Borders warned on Thursday of a "massive" influx of cases in the capital.

The aid group's center in Conakry received 22 patients on Monday alone, including 18 from the same region 50 kilometers east of the city, the group said Thursday in a statement, adding that its facilities were reaching their limits.

"This seems to confirm fears of a massive increase of cases in the capital," the group said.

Dada, the naturalized Liberian doctor who died Thursday, served as the medical director of the Redemption Hospital in Monrovia from 2008 to 2013 before moving on to take up a new assignment at the country's largest hospital, the John F. Kennedy Memorial Medical Center, according to authorities at the Redemption Hospital.

Ebola "has come for the health workers," said Dr. Atai Omoruto, a Ugandan doctor heading the newest Ebola treatment center at what used to be Island Clinic in the western suburbs of the city.

There was continued concern about Ebola spreading in Spain, where the first person known to have caught the disease outside the outbreak zone in West Africa became sick.

The condition of Spanish nursing assistant Teresa Romero deteriorated on Thursday, said Yolanda Fuentes, deputy director of Madrid's Carlos III hospital.

The woman's brother, Jose Ramon Romero, told reporters outside the hospital that his sister had been intubated because of "something to do with the lungs."

Intubation involves inserting a plastic tube into a patient's windpipe. The procedure is usually done to help patients breathe better either with or without a respirator or to administer drugs. But several hours after Romero spoke, a hospital spokeswoman denied that Teresa Romero had been intubated and said she was breathing on her own.

Three doctors have been admitted to the Madrid hospital for precautionary observation, bringing to seven the number being monitored at the center, health officials said Thursday.

In Germany, a man infected in Liberia arrived Thursday at a hospital for treatment the third Ebola patient to be flown to the country.

The St. Georg Hospital in Leipzig said the man, who works for the United Nations in Liberia and whose name was not given, will be placed in a special isolation unit.

The first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, Thomas Eric Duncan, died Wednesday in Dallas. Five major U.S. airports plan to try to catch any travelers from Ebola-ravaged countries who may be carrying the disease by checking their temperatures on arrival.


Giles reported from Madrid. Clarence Roy-Macaulay in Freetown, Sierra Leone; Geir Moulson in Berlin; Maria Cheng in London; Wade Williams in Monrovia, Liberia; and Robbie Corey-Boulet in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, also contributed to this report.


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