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World 'ill-prepared' for Ebola outbreak that's 'rising exponentially' warns WHO

Ebola outbreak

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(NaturalNews) The head of the World Health Organization has said that the current Ebola outbreak is the "most severe acute health emergency in modern times," as the disease continues to ravage West Africa and has spread to its second victim in the United States.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan says the epidemic proves that "the world is ill-prepared to respond to any severe, sustained, and threatening public health emergency," in a statement to a regional health conference in Manila, the Philippine capital.

She also said that new cases of Ebola are "rising exponentially" in the three hardest-hit African nations of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

"I have never seen a health event threaten the very survival of societies and governments in already very poor countries," she said. "I have never seen an infectious disease contribute so strongly to potential state failure."

Britain's The Telegraph newspaper reported that Chan's statement was read at the conference by a WHO official who said she could not attend because "she is fully occupied with coordinating the international response to what is unquestionably the most severe acute public health emergency in modern times."

'Important changes' on the way

The warning came as the British government prepared to announce "important changes" in the National Health System to address and contain a potential outbreak. The Telegraph report elaborated:

Enhanced screening for the virus at two of the country's biggest airports is due to be introduced this week after Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that calls to the NHS's non-emergency 111 phoneline will also be screened for potential Ebola sufferers.

Call handlers on the service are to question anyone ringing up with possible symptoms of the disease about their recent travel history to see if they have been to west Africa, where the death toll has passed 4,000 people, Mr Hunt said.

In an interview with BBC Breakfast, Hunt said that the country should "prepare for the situation getting worse."

"I want to make sure we are prepared," he continued. "It is now more likely that someone will eventually be diagnosed in the UK with Ebola. It is crucial that we are prepared for what happens when they make their first contact with the NHS.

"That's why we're introducing later to Parliament some very important changes across the NHS just to prepare ourselves for the eventuality it might get worse," he said.

The U.S. has also stepped up Ebola screening at five of the international hubs most frequented by travelers from West Africa. According to NPR, that increased screening led to more than 90 travelers at JFK International Airport in New York City being flagged, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chief Dr. Thomas Frieden.

Some states want additional Ebola screening at airports

He said additional enhanced screening will also take place at airports in Atlanta; Chicago; Newark, N.J.; and Dulles, Va.

But some federal lawmakers and state officials are calling for an increase in the number of airports undergoing advanced Ebola screening. The Hill reported that Minnesota's U.S. senatorial delegation and the state's governor want the airport at Minneapolis-St. Paul added to the list.

"The Ebola experience in Dallas, Texas has taught us that even one case of Ebola in our state or country can have devastating consequences," wrote Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) and Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D) and Al Franken (D), in a letter to Frieden.

Pointing out that the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport is the nation's 16th busiest, they said passengers there ought to be screened as well.

"Our request is that the CDC conduct heightened screenings of all passengers with Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea in their travel history when they arrive at MSP [Minneapolis-St. Paul]," they wrote. "We hope to work with you to do everything we can to prevent the disease from spreading to Minnesota."







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