WASHINGTON (AFP) – A top US health official on Thursday urged swift action to prevent the deadly Ebola virus from becoming the next AIDS epidemic, as the health of an infected Spanish nurse deteriorated.
The United Nations chief meanwhile called for a 20-fold increase in the world’s response to the spread of Ebola, which has killed nearly 3,900 people in West Africa since the beginning of the year.
Ebola’s spillover into the United States and Europe has raised fears of a wider outbreak, and led the United States and Canada to start tougher airport screening of passengers arriving from West Africa.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has predicted the number of cases could mount to 1.4 million by January unless strong measures are taken to contain the disease, which is spread though close contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person.
“We have to work now so that it is not the world’s next AIDS,” CDC director Tom Frieden told the heads of the United Nations, World Bank and International Monetary Fund gathered in Washington.
“I would say that in the 30 years I’ve been working in public health, the only thing like this has been AIDS,” he added, warning of a “long fight” ahead.
In Madrid, the condition of a nurse who treated two elderly missionaries
with Ebola has worsened, the hospital where she is being treated said.
Teresa Romero, who is the first person infected with Ebola outside Africa,
had gone on leave after the second of her Ebola patients died on September 25.
She started to feel ill on September 29 but was not admitted to hospital until seven days later, creating a large window of time in which other people
may have been exposed.
Health officials said they would monitor about 50 other people – mostly health staff – who had been in contact with Romero for the duration of the 21-day Ebola incubation period.