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Health officials scramble to contain Ebola

Health officials scramble to contain Ebola

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia BurwellSylvia Mathews BurwellObamaCare demonstrates dangers of government interference FDA’s hostility blocks Zika-prevention technology HHS projects 13.8M ObamaCare signups for 2017 MORE met with African leaders about the Ebola outbreak on the sidelines of a White House diplomatic summit Monday. 

The meeting is a sign of the Obama administration's desire to get a handle on the growing crisis in West Africa, where nearly 900 people have died from Ebola since March. 

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The State Department alerted reporters about the meeting shortly after news broke that a New York City man might have contracted Ebola during a visit to an affected country. 

If confirmed, the case could be the first to travel to U.S. soil undetected. The man is currently undergoing tests and treatment at Manhattan's Mount Sinai hospital. 

The reemergence of the Ebola virus has put global leaders on edge and is threatening to engulf the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit currently underway in Washington, D.C. 

The virus is almost 100 percent fatal and wrecks havoc on the body by causing massive internal hemorrhaging. It is spread through contact with bodily fluids and lacks a vaccine, cure or consistently successful course of treatment. 

Health officials have sought to tamp down fears that Ebola will travel to the United States.  

In a recent interview with The Hill, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Director Tom Frieden emphasized the agency's extensive work in regions most affected by the virus. 

"We are working to stop the outbreaks at the source," Frieden said. "That's the most important and frankly, the most effective strategy." 

Frieden participated in Monday's meeting alongside Burwell, Guinean President Alpha Conde and other top African officials. 

The gathering focused on how best to leverage U.S. resources to fight Ebola on the ground. 

At the same time, the administration has announced a variety of steps to ensure the virus does not enter the United States. 

Anyone departing Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone will undergo screening at the airport and upon arrival on U.S. soil, officials said. 

The CDC is also permitting airlines to deny boarding to people with Ebola-like symptoms and educating customs personnel on signs of the illness. 

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday that there is currently no need to turn back flights from the affected countries. 

"There are in place a lot of precautions to ensure the safety of the American public and the traveling public," Earnest told reporters at a briefing. 

Earlier in the day, the White House released a long fact sheet describing its public health work in Africa. 

"The United States is responding rapidly and effectively" to the Ebola crisis, the memo stated. 

"We are sending additional experts ... and will work with partners to control the outbreak even as we increase assistance to those in need now." 

The administration has come under pressure to detail its response as global leaders raise concerns that the virus is moving too quickly to be contained. 

Nigeria confirmed its second Ebola case on Monday — a doctor who treated another victim — in a sign of the potency of the virus and its ability to spread. 

Frieden has expressed confidence that the current outbreak will not last. 

"We have stopped every outbreak of Ebola to date," he told The Hill. "I am confident we are going to stop this outbreak also." 

But the head of the World Health Organization warned Friday that the situation was getting worse and moving toward a potentially "catastrophic" outcome. 

"This outbreak is moving faster than our efforts to control it," said WHO chief Margaret Chan. 

"If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences can be catastrophic in terms of lost lives but also … a high risk of spread to other countries."

The government is currently monitoring the condition of two confirmed cases of Ebola in U.S. aid workers. 

A chartered evacuation plane will fly one patient, Nancy Writebol, to Atlanta's Emory University for treatment early Tuesday morning. 

Writebol will join the other patient, Kent Brantly, who is already at the hospital. 

The two worked at an Ebola clinic in Liberia. Their conditions are reportedly improving after treatment with an experimental drug received with help from the National Institutes of Health.

This story was updated at 6:15 p.m.