[Madrid] Fears that the Ebola outbreak will spread globally rose on Thursday with the deteriorating health of an infected Spanish nurse, a British man who died in Macedonia being tested for the virus and more demands by US lawmakers for travel bans.
At least 26 members of the US House of Representatives want travel bans and visa restrictions on citizens of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the impoverished West African nations hardest hit since the worst Ebola outbreak on record.
The calls came a day after the death in Texas of the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States and after the United States and Britain announced they will start screening many airline passengers arriving from affected countries for fever and other Ebola symptoms.
Fears of having to clean up vomit and feces in airplane bathrooms from infected travelers with insufficient protection prompted about 200 airline cabin cleaners to walk off the job for a day in New York. "The nation is frightened, and people are frightened of this disease," US cabinet secretary for health, Sylvia Burwell said at a press conference. "They're frightened because it has a very high mortality rate. They're frightened because they need to learn (and) understand what the facts are about that disease." The Ebola virus causes hemorrhagic fever and is spread through direct contact with body fluids from an infected person, who would suffer severe bouts of vomiting and diarrhea. About half of people infected have died in the current outbreak, although up to 90 percent of patients have died in previous outbreaks.
Spain's government rejected criticism that its methods of dealing with Ebola were not working and blamed the infection of a Spanish nurse on human error.
Teresa Romero, 44, is the first person to have contracted Ebola outside of Africa after becoming infected by one of two Spanish priests repatriated from Africa with the disease. Romero had told another doctor at the hospital that she had touched her face with her protective gloves.
Macedonia officials are taking strict precautions after a British man died within hours of being admitted to hospital in the capital Skopje on Thursday.
Authorities sealed off a hotel where he had been staying, isolating a second Briton and hotel staff. The man had been suffering from fever, vomiting and internal bleeding, but it is not yet known whether he had Ebola and it was unclear whether he had traveled to West Africa.
A hospital in the Czech capital Prague is testing a 56-year-old man with symptoms of the disease who had recently traveled to Liberia, a spokesman said.
Containing the outbreak has become a top priority for governments around the world and is no longer just an issue in West Africa, where nearly 4,000 have died since March.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that the number of infections could rise to up to 1.4 million people by early next year without a massive global intervention to contain the virus.
Shares in Lakeland Industries LAKE.O, a maker of suits to wear while handling hazardous materials, rose more than 50 per cent on Thursday on expectations of the disease spreading.
African leaders called on other countries to provide more money and equipment to deal with the Ebola crisis in the worst affected countries. "Our people are dying," Sierra Leone's President Ernest Koroma told major donors gathered at a World Bank meeting in Washington via video conference. "Without you we can't succeed, without your quick response a tragedy unforeseen in modern times will threaten the well-being and compromise the security of people everywhere," he said.
Liberia is facing recession and may need more aid from the International Monetary Fund given the budgetary toll the virus has taken, its finance minister said. "Our economy was projected to grow by 5.9 per cent. That growth has been revised down to 1 per cent," Finance Minister Amara Konneh said on Wednesday. "Technically, the economy is in recession." A Republican senator on Thursday was holding up a US$700 million increase in the US military's funding to fight Ebola in West Africa, citing concerns about protecting the health of military staff and the long-term future of the mission.
The Obama administration originally requested a shift of US$1 billion from a war operations budget to support the deployment of nearly 4,000 troops to West Africa and set up dozens of medical treatment facilities.