Obama to appoint Ebola ‘czar’ charged with coordinating fight against epidemic

U.S. President Barack Obama. (Reuters/Larry Downing)RT

US President Barack Obama is set to appoint Ron Klain as the Ebola “czar” charged with coordinating government efforts in fight against the spread of the virus in the United States, CNN reports.

The news comes less than 24 hours after the president met with the country’s top health officials. Following the meeting, he told reporters that it might be appropriate to appoint an additional person to coordinate the response to Ebola in the United States.  

“It may make sense for us to have one person … so that after this initial surge of activity, we can have a more regular process just to make sure that we’re crossing all the T’s and dotting all the I’s going forward,” Obama said.

Klain is the president of Case Holdings, the holding company for the business and philanthropic interests of former AOL chairman Steve Case, and general counsel at Revolution LLC, a Washington, DC-based investment firm. He previously served as the chief of staff for Vice President Joe Biden, as well as for former Vice President Al Gore. He left the Obama administration in January 2011.

The White House considers Klain to be a good manager from his time overseeing the allocation of funds in the stimulus act, according to CNN. He does not have any extensive background in dealing with health care, but the administration views the Ebola czar as a managerial position.

As the White House confirmed Klain’s appointment, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, commented on the news during an unrelated press conference. “We will follow the lead of the president and of Secretary [of Health and Human Services Sylvia] Burwell,” he said. “I take care of patients. I do my job, other people do their jobs.”

The Obama administration has faced backlash for its response to the incidents of Ebola in the United States. The calls for an Ebola czar ‒ as well as for a travel ban on people entering the US from the West African nations with outbreaks of the virus ‒ have increased in recent weeks as fears have grown around the country and more people have been identified during

“contact tracing” of the two diagnosed ‒ and several suspected ‒ cases in the US.

Cruise ship quarantine

A Texas health care worker who may have handled lab specimens from the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the US has voluntarily quarantined herself aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean. She is traveling with a partner, who has also chosen to remain in isolation aboard the boat. Neither person is exhibiting symptoms, and the Carnival Magic, the cruise company, is in close contact with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The woman is a lab supervisor at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Texas, where Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the US, was treated and subsequently died.

“The individual was out of the country before being notified of CDC’s updated requirements for active monitoring,” the US Department of State said in a statement. “At the time the hospital employee left the country, CDC was requiring only self-monitoring.”

“The employee has been self-monitoring, including daily temperature checks, since October 6, and has not had a fever or demonstrated any symptoms of illness,” the State Department added.

The incubation period for the Ebola virus is 21 days.

“At no point in time has the individual exhibited any symptoms or signs of infection and it has been 19 days since she was in the lab with the testing samples. She is deemed by CDC to be very low risk,”Carnival Magic said in a statement. “At this time, the guest remains in isolation on board the ship and is not deemed to be a risk to any guest or crew.”

“It is important to reiterate that the individual has no symptoms and has been isolated in an extreme abundance of caution,” the cruise company added. “We are in close contact with the CDC and at this time it has been determined that the appropriate course of action is to simply keep the guest in isolation on board.”

However, Carnival Magic is attempting to transport the health care worker and her companion back to the US through Belize, but the Central American government has refused, despite admitting the “low risk” of spreading the disease.

“The [government of Belize] reassures the public that the passenger never set foot in Belize and while we remain in close contact with US officials we have maintained the position that when even the smallest doubt remains, we will ensure the health and safety of the Belizean people,” the government said in a statement.

Trans-Atlantic Scare: Man dies after vomiting on flight

A male passenger who died after vomiting on a trans-Atlantic flight from Nigeria to New York sparked panic he could be carrying the Ebola virus. However, initial tests on the 63-year-old man show that he tested negative to the virus.

The man had boarded a flight at Lagos Airport in Nigeria, which was bound for New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport. However, once airborne, the man complained of vomiting during the flight and was sick in his seat. He died sometime before the plane landed at JFK, leaving around 150 passengers worried as to why he had passed away.


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