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Officials try to ease worries about NYC’s first Ebola case

New York health officials say an American doctor who contracted Ebola after treating patients in Guinea showed no symptoms for more than a week before falling ill. Dr. Craig Spencer has been isolated and his fiancee and two friends have been quarantined as officials trace his steps. Meanwhile, a nurse who contracted Ebola in Dallas has been declared virus-free. Hari Sreenivasan reports.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The governors of New York and New Jersey announced today that all travelers coming from Ebola-affected countries will face a new mandatory quarantine when they arrive at airports in those two states.

    Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie said the existing federal standards were not enough. It came just hours after New York City officials tried to tamp down concerns over that city’s first Ebola case.

    Hari Sreenivasan has the story from New York.

  • MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, New York:

    We have the finest public health system not only anywhere in this country, but anywhere in the world. Its a public health system that has been developed over decades. It is ready for extraordinary challenges, and it’s proving it as we speak.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio sought to reassure citizens this afternoon, a day after Dr. Craig Spencer was diagnosed with the Ebola virus and his fiancee and two friends were placed in quarantine.

    Spencer, isolated and in stable condition at a New York hospital, had recently returned from treating Ebola patients in Guinea. But city health commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said the 33-year- old was symptom-free during his travels.

  • DR. MARY TRAVIS BASSETT, Commissioner, New York City Health Department:

     So, he was feeling well, had no fever at the time that he left Guinea, which was on the 14th. He continued to feel well with his onward travel from Europe to the United States, where he arrived at JFK on the 17th. And he continued to check his temperature daily.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Officials said Spencer visited the High Line Park, a coffee shop and restaurant in Manhattan on Tuesday as fatigue symptoms appeared. On Wednesday, he went running and rode the subway to a bowling alley in Brooklyn.

    It was at his apartment Thursday morning that Spencer reported having a 100.3 degree fever, and emergency workers moved him to Bellevue Hospital for treatment. Health officials are now retracing Spencer’s steps in the days leading up to his hospital admission. They have cleared the bowling alley and the coffee shop, and maintain that the odds of virus transmission in public spaces remains very low.

    Meanwhile, doctors declared Nina Pham, one of two nurses who contracted the disease while treating Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, free of the virus today. She was released from the National Institutes of Health this morning.

  • NINA PHAM, Ebola Survivor:

    I feel fortunate and blessed to be standing here today. I first and foremost would like to thank God, my family, and friends. Throughout this ordeal, I have put my trust in God and my medical team. I’m on my way back to recovery, even as I reflect on how many others have not been so fortunate.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Pham later met with President Obama at the Oval Office. Her release is the latest in a series of recoveries by Americans who have contracted the disease. Pham colleague and fellow nurse Amber Vinson, NBC cameraman Ashoka Mukpo, and three missionary workers, Dr. Kent Brantly, Nancy Writebol, and Dr. Rick Sacra have all been declared Ebola-free after receiving treatment at U.S. facilities.

    Still, on Capitol Hill today, National Nurses United co-president Deborah Burger said the Ebola response from U.S. hospitals and governmental agencies has been inconsistent.

  • DEBORAH BURGER, Co-President, National Nurses United:

    Eighty-five percent of the nurses say they are not adequately trained. Give us the tools we need. All we ask from President Obama and Congress is not one more infected nurse.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    But John Roth, an inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security, said an audit of previous DHS pandemic preparedness revealed questionable spending practices.

  • JOHN ROTH, Inspector General, Department of Homeland Security:

    We found that DHS has a stockpile of about 350,000 white coverall suits and 16 million surgical masks, but hasn’t been able to demonstrate how either fits into their pandemic preparedness plans.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Meanwhile, in Switzerland, the World Health Organization announced plans to ramp up development of Ebola vaccines.

  • WHO assistant director-general of health systems and innovation Marie-Paule Kieny:

  • MARIE-PAULE KIENY, Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation, World Health Organization:

    All is put in place by all partners to start efficacy trials in affected countries in December, as early as in December 2014. Of course, the protocols will be adapted to take into consideration safety and immunogenicity results of the phase one trial as they become available.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    They said hundreds of thousands of doses could be ready for use in West Africa by the middle of next year. The WHO also announced it was sending experts to Mali, where a 2-year-old girl has died with Ebola, the first known case in that country; 43 others are being monitored for symptoms.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The World Health Organization said today there are already more than 9,900 cases of Ebola in Africa during this outbreak and close to 4,900 deaths. Nine cases of Ebola have been seen in the United States since the beginning of August. Only Thomas Eric Duncan, the man from Liberia, died.

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