The Latest: Ebola in the United States

A continually updated summary of all that’s happened since the first patient was diagnosed on American soil.

In late September, Thomas Duncan became the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. Two hospital workers who treated him also became infected, setting off a nationwide effort to contain the disease, and fears of a larger outbreak. Keep checking this page for all the latest updates on the crisis.

All times Eastern

November 20, 12:00 p.m.

U.S. Announces Protected Status for People from Ebola-Affected Countries

The U.S. is now extending protected status to people currently in the country from Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia, Reuters reported earlier today.

The Department of Homeland Security estimated that around 8,000 people from the three West African countries most affected by Ebola would now be able to apply for work permits, as well as immunity from deportation. These protections, which apply only to people already in the U.S. as of today, will last for 18 months, at which point officials will re-assess based on the state of the epidemic.

As a means of controlling virus transmission, those who receive protected status are forbidden from traveling to West Africa and returning to the United States. People must submit to a background check before applying, an official from Homeland Security told Reuters, and those with criminal backgrounds will not be eligible.

The Ebola death toll currently stands at 5,420, according to the World Health Organization. The WHO said yesterday that transmission of the virus is still particularly “intense and widespread” in Sierra Leone, where only 13 percent of patients have been successfully isolated.

Cari Romm

November 17, 9:25 a.m.

Doctor Brought to U.S. Dies of Ebola

Dr. Michael Salia, a U.S. resident who contracted Ebola while working as a surgeon in his native Sierra Leone, died this morning at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. The 44-year-old Salia was already acutely ill upon his arrival in the U.S. on Saturday with kidney and respiratory problems. He has become the second person to die of Ebola in the United States. The first, Thomas Eric Duncan, passed away in Dallas last month after contracting the illness in Liberia.

According to NBC News, Salia had a wife and two children living in the New Carrollton, Maryland. "Even though he knows the sickness is already out, he decided to still go and help his people because he wanted to show that he loves his people," his son, Maada, said.

Salia initially underwent an Ebola test that came back negative in Sierra  Leone earlier in the month, but when his symptoms persisted, a second test showed the disease, the Washington Post reported. Doctors say early detection is critical to treating Ebola.

Matt Schiavenza

November 17, 9:15 a.m.

U.S. Announces Enhanced Airport Screening for Mali Travelers

Travelers entering the U.S. from Mali will now be subject to enhanced Ebola screenings at airports as concerns grow about the latest outbreak in the West African nation.

The Department of Homeland Security cited a "number of confirmed cases" in Mali in recent days as well as the large number of individuals who have been exposed to Ebola as reasons for the change. The U.S. had previously implemented enhanced airport screenings for passengers from Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. Dozens of people in Mali have now been quarantined after the death of a nurse who treated a Guinean man who died of Ebola last week.

There are no direct flights to the U.S. from Mali, and the change will likely affect only 15-20 people who regularly fly in through connecting airports, DHS said in a statement. They will be routed to one of five airports that conduct the enhanced screenings, and they will be subject to 21-day monitoring for symptoms. Most are U.S. citizens or residents who are flying home.

–Russell Berman

November 11, 12:30 p.m.

The Quiet End to the U.S. Ebola Panic

Dr. Craig Spencer, the health worker who brought Ebola from West Africa into the nation's biggest metropolis, is going home on Tuesday, healthy and virus-free. The news out of New York brings the grand total of Ebola cases currently in the U.S. back down to zero. For now, the borderline hysteria that began with the arrival, diagnosis, and subsequent death, of Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas is resembling so many other crises of the moment, in with a bang and out with a whimper. Read more ...

–Russell Berman

November 8, 3:30 p.m.

Dallas's Ebola Scare Is Over

On Friday, November 7, what began with Thomas Eric Duncan's September 30th diagnosis came to an end as the last person being monitored for symptoms of Ebola in Dallas was cleared by officials. The final patient to receive the all-clear was a hospital worker who had handled medical waste on October 17, the New York Times reports. The worker was part of a group of 16 people who had been in contact with Nina Pham and Amber Joy Vinson, nurses who treated Duncan and subsequently came down with the virus themselves. Both have since recovered.

After being monitored twice a day for 21 days, the length of Ebola's incubation period, this last group of people was found to be symptom-free. Most were cleared on Thursday night, and the last person was checked out on Friday. In total, 177 people have had to go through this 21-day watch period since Duncan's diagnosis. In all, the Times says the flare-up of the virus cost Dallas County more than $1 million.

“It’s been a challenge, and there have been moments of frustration throughout this difficult process," Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said in a statement. "But the city’s plan and its steadfast commitment to early detection and proper monitoring played a key role in stopping the spread of the virus. And I’m especially thankful to all the brave health care workers who put their lives on the line to help others, including Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, who are true heroes in this city and around the world.”

Julie Beck

October 31, 2:10 p.m.

Quarantine Order On Maine Nurse Is Lifted

Kaci Hickox is free to go.

A Maine judge quickly lifted a temporary order restricting the nurse's movements on Friday, saying only that she had to "coordinate" her travel with state health officials and notify them if she develops any symptoms of Ebola. Judge Charles LaVerdiere's ruling in favor of Hickox came less than a day after he temporarily granted the state's request to enforce her 21-day home quarantine.

Hickox has protested her confinement both in New Jersey and in Maine, arguing that the policies are not medically-sound and violate her civil liberties. After returning a week ago from treating Ebola patients in West Africa, she has tested negative for the virus and exhibited no symptoms. Hickox defied the Maine quarantine on Thursday by going for a bike ride and speaking to reporters outside her house, prompting the governor to seek a court order against her.

LaVerdiere said Hickox must participate in active monitoring of her health with state officials, and while praising her, he gently instructed her to be aware of the public's "real fear" of Ebola.

"The court is fully aware that people are acting out of fear and that this fear is not entirely rational. However, whether that fear is rational or not, it is present and it is real. Respondent's actions, at this point, as a health care professional, need to demonstrate her full understanding of human nature and the real fear that exists. She should guide herself accordingly.

The Associated Press reported that a state police cruiser parked outside her home in Fort Kent drove away after the ruling was issued. Governor Paul LePage said he would not challenge the judge's ruling.

“As governor, I have done everything I can to protect the health and safety of Mainers," he said in a statement. "The judge has eased restrictions with this ruling and I believe it is unfortunate. However, the state will abide by law.”

–Russell Berman

October 31, 11:20 a.m.

Judge Grants Order Restricting Quarantined Maine Nurse

A judge in Maine has granted a request by state health officials to temporarily restrict the movement of Kaci Hickox, the nurse who has defied a 21-day quarantine after she returned from treating Ebola patients in West Africa.

The order is only for 24 hours, but it limits her travel and bans her from public places or within three feet of other people outside her home, according to the Associated Press. Hickox left her home in Fort Kent on Thursday to go for a bike ride and then to speak with reporters. She has argued the mandatory quarantine is not based on science and violates her civil liberties. Hickox said she has no fever and therefore could not transmit Ebola even if she had it, because only people with symptoms are contagious. She has about two weeks left on her quarantine.

–Russell Berman

October 30, 6:55 p.m.

The Renegade Nurse: Kaci Hickox Defies Her Quarantine

The nurse who protested her detainment in a New Jersey tent upon her return from treating Ebola patients in West Africa is now defying a state-imposed home quarantine in Maine. Physically healthy, Hickox and her boyfriend went for a bike ride Thursday morning, taking both state troopers and a small army of reporters on a tour of New England's beautiful fall foliage on a brisk late October morning. Read more...

–Russell Berman

October 29, 11:45 a.m.

Hagel Signs Ebola Quarantine Order for Military

Soldiers returning from the military's mission combatting Ebola in West Africa will be placed in a 21-day quarantine under an order signed Wednesday by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Hagel approved a recommendation from the Joints Chiefs of Staff to create what the military is calling a "controlled monitoring regimen" for service members in the region. The order formalizes a more restrictive Ebola protocol than the CDC recommends for civilian health workers, and Hagel said in an appearance at the Washington Ideas Forum that the move was prompted in part by concerns raised by military families, who "very much wanted a safety valve on this."

Just over 1,000 service members are in Liberia and Senegal, and as many as 4,000 could be part of the mission to build treatment centers and help the local population contain the outbreak. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement that the policy would be reviewed after 45 days based on what the military learns from the first wave of returning soldiers.

"The secretary believes these initial steps are prudent given the large number of military personnel transiting from their home base and West Africa and the unique logistical demands and impact this deployment has on the force," Kirby said. "The secretary's highest priority is the safety and security of our men and women in uniform and their families."

–Russell Berman

October 29, 10:30 a.m.

Nurse Threatens to Go to Court If State Quarantines Her

Days after being quarantined against her will behind a New Jersey hospital, nurse Kaci Hickox says that she will go to court if Maine tries to impose a quarantine on her. Hickox, who was detained after returning from West Africa, where she was treating Ebola patients, was flown to Maine earlier this week and has been following the state's voluntary quarantine. However, she says, if the restrictions against her aren't removed by Thursday, Hickox says she will go to court.

"I am not going to sit around and be bullied by politicians and forced to stay in my home when I am not a risk to the American public," she said during a televised interview on Today.

Hickox maintains that she is not sick, having twice tested negative for Ebola. Her initial detainment was spurred by a high temperature reading on an airport forehead scanner, although a follow-up reading showed her temperature to be normal. Her case has become something of a lightning rod as political grappling over quarantine policy continues between officials on the state and federal levels.

–Adam Chandler

October 28, 4:32 p.m.

Standing Up for Ebola Health Workers

President Obama never mentioned Chris Christie's name during his brief update on the government's Ebola response on Tuesday afternoon. He didn't need to.

To anyone who has followed the shadowboxing between federal officials and the governor of New Jersey over the last several days, it was clear to whom Obama was referring when he spoke up repeatedly in defense of health workers who treat Ebola patients in West Africa and insisted that public health policies must not discourage them from fighting the virus at its source. Read More...

—Russell Berman

October 28, 9:20 a.m.

Second Infected Nurse Is Declared Ebola-Free

Amber Vinson, the second Dallas nurse who contracted Ebola from Thomas Eric Duncan, is now free of the virus and will be released from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta on Tuesday afternoon, the hospital said.

Vinson was transferred to Emory from the Dallas hospital where she treated Duncan, who died October 8. She had flown to Cleveland and back to Dallas in the days before she became symptomatic, but thus far no one with whom she came in contact has been diagnosed with Ebola. Another nurse who treated Duncan, Nina Pham, was released from an NIH hospital in Maryland after being treated successfully for Ebola.

The only person in the U.S. currently known to have Ebola is now Dr. Craig Spencer, who is undergoing treatment in New York.

–Russell Berman

October 28, 9:10 a.m.

U.N. Ambassador Won't Face Quarantine After West Africa Trip

On Monday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that Samantha Power, the American ambassador to the United Nations, would undergo active monitoring for Ebola upon her return from West Africa, where she has been dispatched on a fact-finding mission.

When she arrives, Power will become the latest face of federal policy with regard to Ebola (whatever it may be by then). As of now, that seems to mean that she will check in regularly with doctors and otherwise go about her business unless she (or her doctors) detect symptoms of the virus. Read more...

–Adam Chandler

October 27, 10:30 a.m.

Quarantined Nurse Discharged as White House Weighs Changes

Nurse Kaci Hickox will be discharged from her Ebola-related quarantine in a tent outside a New Jersey hospital on Monday, and officials said she would be allowed to return to her home state of Maine.

Governor Chris Christie announced the move after Hickox, who tested negative for Ebola, called her conditions "inhumane" and retained attorney Norman Siegel to file a lawsuit challenging her mandatory isolation. The move comes as the White House weighs changes to the federal policy on health workers who return to the U.S. after treating Ebola patients in West Africa. Read more...

–Russell Berman

October 26, 4:33 p.m.

Christie Has 'No Second Thoughts' About Ebola Quarantine

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Sunday defended his Ebola quarantine policy, dismissing complaints from a nurse quarantined under the policy, as well as worries that the approach would deter American health workers from traveling overseas to tackle the virus—a stance that has drawn the attention of the White House and could bring legal action against the state.

"The government's job is to protect safety and health of our citizens," Christie said on Fox News Sunday. "I have no second thoughts about it."

Criticism of the quarantine policy started when Kaci Hickox, a nurse placed under mandatory quarantine in New Jersey, slammed the "knee-jerk reaction by politicians" and the policy over how she has been treated during that time in anopinion piece for the Dallas Morning News. On Sunday, she reiterated her position, saying on CNN's "State of the Union," "This is an extreme that is really unacceptable, and I feel like my basic human rights have been violated." Read more ...

— Allen McDuffee

October 24, 5:33 p.m.

New York, New Jersey Announce New Ebola Quarantines at Airports

The states of New York and New Jersey will begin quarantining all medical workers who treated Ebola patients in West Africa and return to the U.S. through their airports, Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie announced Friday.

The stepped-up response comes one day after a New York doctor was diagnosed with Ebola about a week after returning from Guinea, where he was working with Doctors Without Borders. Cuomo and Christie said the CDC allows states to determine their own quarantine guidelines, even though the policy will not–as of yet–be in effect nationally. Christie said a health worker who had treated Ebola patients in West Africa was already quarantined at Newark Liberty International Airport earlier Friday under the new policy, even though she did not present any symptoms of the virus.

"This is not the time to take chances," Cuomo said.

He said it was clear voluntary quarantines for workers returning from West Africa were not enough, especially after it emerged that Dr. Craig Spencer, the New Yorker diagnosed with Ebola on Thursday, had gone out and about in public during the 21-day period after he treated patients in Guinea.

–Russell Berman

October 24, 1:00 p.m.

Scientists Consider Role of Robots in Caring for Ebola Patients

Ebola is a cruel disease in many ways, but one of the worst is that it preys on the very things that help make us who we are, as a species: our need for community. Our impulse for love. Our inability to see a baby, abandoned, and not reach out. Ebola preys on human bodies, by way of human souls.
From a technological standpoint, the best way to combat all of this is for the healthy to distance themselves from the stricken. And the most obvious way to do that is to remove human interaction from the equation. And the most obvious way to do that may involve removing humans themselves from the equation—at least when it comes to the care of the sick.
On November 7, scientists will convene at universities across the country to consider the role that autonomous machines might play in combating the Ebola crisis. Read more...

–Megan Garber

October 24, 12:00 p.m.

Lawmakers Voice Doubts on Ebola Protocols

The Ebola diagnosis in a New York doctor who had returned recently from Guinea is prompting lawmakers to voice fresh concerns about protocols for preventing the spread of the virus in the U.S.

At a hearing on Capitol Hill, several lawmakers questioned whether people who may have been exposed to the virus should be trusted to "self-monitor" themselves during the 21-day period when Ebola could be in their system. Dr. Craig Spencer, the New York doctor, had gone bowling and taken the subway the day before he reported a fever to health officials.

"I am highly skeptical," said Representative Michael Turner, a Republican of Ohio. "The American public is worried. I believe these [standards] need to be revised." He questioned why military service members in West Africa were allowed to travel after just 10 days, rather than wait the full three weeks.

Democratic Representative Steven Lynch of Massachusetts said travelers should be required to spend the 21-day monitoring period abroad before they are allowed to enter the U.S.

"I understand we don’t want to panic people, but we also don’t need happy talk about what we’re dealing with," Lynch said.

"We are not taking this seriously enough. We are not," he added.

Lynch directed questions to Rabih Torbay, a senior official with the International Medical Corps, which is treating Ebola patients in Africa. Torbay said a much longer waiting period would be unworkable for hospitals who need staff on the job. "We cannot completely wrap ourselves in a bubble here," Torbay said.

The chairman of the Oversight Committee, Representative Darrell Issa of California, raised alarmed about the possible spread of Ebola through public transportation, which health experts say is unlikely because the disease is spread only through contact with bodily fluids from a patient presenting symptoms. Issa harshly criticized CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden (who was not present) and suggested that contrary to his public statements, Ebola could easily be transmitted on public transportation if, for example, an infected person vomited on a bus.

"When the head of the CDC says you can't get it on a bus from someone sitting next to you, that's just not true," Issa said. "The fact is the head of the CDC gave false information."

–Russell Berman

October 24, 11:07 a.m.

First infected Dallas Nurse Declared Free of Ebola

Nina Pham, one of the two nurses who contracted Ebola in Dallas, will be released from an National Institutes of Health facility in Maryland on Friday after medical officials there declared her to be free of the virus. She was admitted on October 16.

Pham was the first nurse infected after treating Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died in Dallas earlier this month. The second nurse, Amber Vinson, is also improving and was told by doctors at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta on Wednesday that the virus could no longer be detected in her bloodstream.

–Russell Berman

October 23, 9:40 p.m.

Doctor in New York City Diagnosed with Ebola

A doctor who treated Ebola victims in Guinea has been diagnosed with the virus in New York, in the first U.S. case confirmed outside of Dallas.

Dr. Craig Spencer was rushed to Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan on Thursday after he called authorities and reported a fever and gastrointestinal symptoms. An initial blood test came back positive for Ebola.

Spencer is the fourth person in the U.S. to be diagnosed with Ebola. The first case, Thomas Eric Duncan, died in Dallas earlier this month, and two nurses who treated him have become infected. One of those nurses, Amber Vinson, was cleared of the virus on Wednesday. Spencer's diagnosis is likely to cause concern in New York because he traveled on the subway and went to a bowling alley in Brooklyn on the night before he came down with a fever. Spencer, 33, worked with Doctors Without Borders in Guinea and returned to the U.S. a week ago, officials said Thursday night.

The CDC has dispatched a rapid response team to New York, and "disease detectives" were trying to reach people who had come in contact with Spencer in recent days. CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden said that by coincidence, the center already had a team in New York observing Bellevue's preparations for a possible case.

City and state officials immediately sought to head off a public panic at the first case of Ebola in the nation's largest and densest city. "We want to state at the outset that there is no reason for New Yorkers to be alarmed," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a nationally-televised press conference.

The city's health commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett, said Spencer had felt fatigued in recent days but did not have a fever until Thursday morning. He had been checking his temperature twice a day since returning from West Africa. Three of Spencer's contacts will be monitored for symptoms for 21 days, Bassett said.

–Russell Berman

October 22, 6:18 p.m.

Dallas Nurse Cleared of Ebola

A spokesperson for the Vinson family told CBS News that Amber Vinson, the nurse who cared for Dallas, Texas Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, has been found in good health. Doctors no longer detected the virus in her bloodstream. Vinson has been in Emory University Hospital in Atlanta for the last week and due to her progress, she will be transferred out of the isolation unit.

Polly Mosendz

October 22, 12:10 p.m.

CDC Announces 21-day Monitoring for Travelers From West Africa

Health officials will monitor travelers from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, for 21 days after they arrive in the U.S., the CDC announced Wednesday in the latest expansion of the federal response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden told reporters on a conference call that the monitoring program will be carried out beginning Monday by state and local officials in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, and Georgia. Travelers will be given kits to check themselves for fever and other Ebola symptoms during the three-week period that the virus can remain present in the body before a person becomes sick. They will be required to inform health officials of their condition on a daily basis, the Associated Press reported.

Russell Berman

October 21, 12:20 p.m.

U.S. Tightens Travel From Ebola Epicenter

It's not a outright Ebola travel ban, but the federal government is limiting the ways in which passengers from West Africa can enter the United States.

The Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday announced that travelers from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea–the three countries at the center of the Ebola outbreak–will have to fly into the U.S. through one of five airports: New York's JFK, Washington D.C.'s Dulles, Atlanta, Chicago O'Hare, and Newark, N.J. Those are the same five airports where officials began secondary screenings of travelers from those countries earlier this month. Read more...

–Russell Berman

October 21, 10:15 a.m.

Democrats Defy Obama on Travel Ban

Worried about the political fallout from the Ebola outbreak, vulnerable Senate Democrats are declaring their support for a U.S. travel ban from the afflicted countries in West Africa.

In multiple cases, the Democrats are shifting off their earlier positions on the question, despite arguments from senior U.S. medical officials and the White House that stiff restrictions would only make it harder to prevent an infected person from entering the country. Read more...

–Russell Berman

October 20, 10:12 a.m.

New Standards for Protective Gear

The CDC will soon release stricter standards for personal protective gear for American hospital workers handling suspected Ebola patients.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said this weekend that the new rules will require full-body suits that leave no skin exposed, as well as a "site manager" to oversee workers as they don and remove gear.

The earlier rules allowed for some degree of variation between hospitals and were designed for field work in Africa. "So there were parts about that protocol that left vulnerability, parts of the skin that were open," Fauci told the AP.

Healthcare workers will also have to practice getting in and out of the protective gear.

—Olga Khazan   

October 20, 9:14 a.m.

Texas Contacts Reach the End of Their Quarantine

Sunday marked the end of the 21-day observation period for most of those who came into contact with Thomas Duncan, the first Ebola patient to be diagnosed in the United States. If patients go three weeks without showing symptoms, they can generally be declared free of the virus. Meanwhile, Senegal and Nigeria have both been declared Ebola-free by WHO, as their outbreaks have been contained. Read more...

—Dashiell Bennett

October 17, 2:00 p.m.

White House Describes Ron Klain as 'Implementation Expert'

Understandably, the White House is not calling Ron Klain a "czar." Officially, Klain will be known as the "Ebola response coordinator," press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on Friday.

"As far as I'm concerned, you can call him anything you want. We call him the Ebola response coordinator," Earnest said.

President Obama appointed Klain, a former chief of staff to two vice presidents, to oversee the government's response to the outbreak in West Africa and the virus's spread in the United States. Republicans have already criticized the pick, noting that Klain has no medical or public health expertise. Earnest quipped that it was a "shocking development" that GOP lawmakers would oppose a presidential decision three weeks before an election.

More seriously, Earnest said Obama was not looking for an "Ebola expert" but an "implementation expert" who could guide a whole-of-government response to the crisis. He cited Klain's experience, while working for Vice President Biden, in coordinating the implementation of the 2009 economic stimulus package.

"We think he is exceedingly well-suited to the task," Earnest said. "His area of expertise is in implementation, and that is exactly what is needed."

Klain is not on the job yet, but he will start soon.

On the question of a travel ban, Earnest continued to argue against the policy change, saying it could produce a "perverse" effect by incentivizing travelers from West Africa to seek other ways into the country. Governor Rick Perry of Texas joined other Republicans in calling for tighter restrictions on Friday.

—Russell Berman

October 17, 1:36 p.m.

Nurses Say Their Hospitals Did Not Prepare Them for Ebola

Now that two nurses have contracted Ebola, nurses' groups around the country blame their hospitals and the CDC for not providing adequate protective gear or training staff in how to use it.

Lynda Pond, a labor and delivery nurse in Springfield, Oregon, told The Atlantic:

None of [the rooms] have antechambers for donning and removing isolation gear. A "cart" with paper gowns, gloves, and non-specific masks is parked outside the door. The nurse [puts on] gowns and gloves outside the room, enters the room, provides care and removes the equipment at the door prior to exiting, placing it in a garbage bin inside the room ... To my knowledge there is not adequate supply of full hazmat suits, there are not instructions for gloving, taping and gloving again. Nor are there leggings or shoe covers as part of the standard isolation gear.

"As it is," she added, "staffing is so short, our patient population so sick, that the nurses are doing all they can to take care of what they have. Ebola is a sideline conversation." Read more ...

—Olga Khazan

October 17, 10:38 a.m.

Obama Appoints New "Ebola czar"

President Obama will appoint former White House official Ron Klain to be the new "Ebola czar," according to report from CNN. Klain, who is not a doctor and has no healthcare background, is probably best known as Al Gore's former chief of staff and a member of his inner circle during the 2000 presidential campaign and Florida recount. (He was played by Kevin Spacey in the HBO movie Recount.)

—Dashiell Bennett

October 17, 9:05 a.m.

Texas Health Worker Under Watch for Ebola Is on Cruise Ship

The State Department is seeking the return to the U.S. of a Texas health worker who boarded a cruise ship after handling clinical specimens from Thomas Eric Duncan, the Ebola patient who died in the U.S. last week.

Jennifer Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement early Friday that the unnamed employee of the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital left on a cruise ship from Galveston on October 12, before the CDC stepped up its monitoring requirements after two nurses who treated Duncan were diagnoses with Ebola.

"The employee did not have direct contact with the since deceased Ebola patient, but may have had contact with clinical specimens collected from him," Psaki said.

The health worker has been placed in isolation on the ship, and a doctor aboard the vessel said she was "in good health," according to the State Department. "We are working with the cruise line to safely bring them back to the United States out of an abundance of caution," Psaki said.

Yet that may be more difficult, because the government of Belize said in a statement posted on Facebook that it had denied a U.S. request to evacuate the worker through Philip Goldson International Airport in Belize City "out of an abundance of caution." The statement made clear to the public that "the passenger never set foot in Belize."

—Russell Berman

October 17, 8:45 a.m.

Obama Opens Door to Travel Ban, Ebola 'Czar'

Is President Obama changing his mind on a possible travel ban from the three West African countries caught up in the Ebola epidemic?

The president told reporters after a meeting on the outbreak Thursday evening that he did not have any "philosophical objections necessarily" to travel restrictions but that his experts had told him it would be less effective than the screening measures currently in place. It marked a shift, at least in tone, from previous statements, when the White House and senior health officials said a ban was not under consideration. Calls for a ban have grown in recent days, particularly from Republicans.

Obama also signaled he might appoint an Ebola "czar" to oversee the government's response to the crisis. He noted that the CDC director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, and his senior counterterrorism adviser, Lisa Monaco, had other responsibilities even as they have taken the lead in handling Ebola.

"So it may make sense for us to have one person, in part just 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," the president said.

—Russell Berman

October 16, 5:13 p.m.

CDC Director Argues Against an Ebola Travel Ban

Dr. Thomas Frieden said authorities preferred a system where they could screen people trying to come to the U.S. by air rather than instituting a ban that would force would-be travelers to go around checkpoints and slip into the country undetected.

"Right now, we know who's coming," Frieden said. If restrictions were in place, he added later, "there’s a high likelihood they will find another way to get there, and we won’t be able track them as we are now." Read more...

—Russell Berman

October 16, 4:00 p.m.

Ebola Patients Move to Other Hospitals

Nina Pham, one of the two Dallas hospital workers infected with Ebola is being transferred to the National Institutes of Health hospital in Maryland to continue her treatment. The other, Amber Vinson, was sent to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta on Wednesday. Read more...


October 16, 10:08 a.m.

Republicans Turn Their Anger on the CDC

Lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are briefly leaving the campaign trail to hold a hearing on the public health crisis that has quickly become a top issue in the midterm elections. Read more...

—Russell Berman

October 15, 2:44 p.m.

CDC Steps up Ebola Precautions

The CDC is contacting all 132 passengers who were onboard the Frontier Airlines flight from Cleveland to Dallas on Monday along with a nurse who treated Thomas Eric Duncan, the first U.S. Ebola patient. CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden bluntly told reporters on Wednesday that the nurse "should not have traveled" on the plane because she was one of dozens who were being monitored for exposure to the deadly disease.

In an indication of the seriousness of the Ebola situation, President Obama cancelled a campaign trip planned for Wednesday afternoon to convene his Cabinet at the White House. The president told reporters after the two-hour meeting that the government would be monitoring the response in Dallas "in a much more aggressive way" and that he had instructed the CDC to dispatch "a SWAT team" of rapid responders to any hospital reporting a diagnosis of Ebola. Read more...

—Russell Berman

October 15, 7:29 a.m.

Second Texas Nurse Contracts Ebola

State health officials in Texas announced on the morning of Wednesday, October 15 that a second healthcare worker who treated the U.S.'s first Ebola victim has now been diagnosed with the disease.

The second worker was immediately isolated and tests conducted after they reported coming down with a fever on Tuesday. Test results came back overnight confirming the diagnosis, and interviews immediately began to identify anyone the person may have come in contact with, so they could also be monitored for symptoms. Read more...

—Dashiell Bennett

October 12, 1:35 p.m.

Dallas nurse becomes first to contract Ebola in the U.S.

As news broke Sunday, October 12, that a healthcare worker in Texas became the first person to contract Ebola on U.S. soil after treating a Liberian man who died of the disease at a Dallas hospital, Senator John McCain called on President Obama to appoint an Ebola "czar" to lead the federal response to the deadly virus. "My constituents are not comforted," he told CNN's State of the Union. "I would say that we don't know exactly who's in charge. There has to be some kind of czar." Read more...

—Allen McDuffee

October 9, 4:12 p.m.

The administration's balancing act between vigilance and fear

As the Obama administration dramatically scales up its response to the Ebola outbreak, it is trying to navigate a tricky course: Can officials increase public vigilance about the deadly virus without inciting a panic?

That challenge has been evident in almost every public pronouncement from the administration in recent weeks–from President Obama on down–as the government seeks to simultaneously emphasize the seriousness of the epidemic while projecting confidence that it can be contained and ultimately halted. Read more...

—Russell Berman

October 8, 11:25 a.m.

First U.S. Ebola patient dies

Thomas Eric Duncan died on Wednesday, October 8, a spokesman for the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas said in a statement.

Duncan, who is Liberian, likely contracted Ebola when he helped carry a sick neighbor to the hospital in Monrovia. He flew from Liberia to Dallas on September 20, when he was not yet showing symptoms of the virus. After developing a fever and abdominal pain on the 24th, Duncan sought care at Texas Health Presbyterian on the 25th, but he was sent home. Read more...

—Olga Khazan

October 3, 11:07 a.m.

The Ebola patient was sent home because of bad software

On Thursday night, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital released a statement explaining exactly how it managed to release an Ebola-infected patient back into America's ninth-largest city. critical information about his travel was somehow lost in the shuffle among the various doctors and nurses treating him that day.

In short? Blame the robots, not the humans.

—Olga Khazan

October 2, 3:49 p.m

Liberia considers prosecuting the man who brought Ebola to the U.S.

As health officials scramble to determine the number of people who may have had contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man currently being treated for Ebola in Dallas, Texas, Liberian officials have taken the aggressive step of announcing that they plan to prosecute Duncan. The government alleges that Duncan lied about having come into contact with someone affected by Ebola during an airport screening in Liberia. Read more...

—Adam Chandler

September 30, 5:57 p.m

Doctors identify first Ebola case to be diagnosed in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Tuesday, September 30 that a man currently in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas has the first diagnosed Ebola case in the U.S. The Liberian man was visiting family in Texas, when he became ill. Read more...

—Polly Mosendz