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Ebola outbreak vexes Nigerian officials; infects first Americans




This colorized image shows part of the Ebola virus. The often-fatal Ebola hemorrhagic fever has appeared sporadically since its initial recognition in 1976.
This colorized image shows part of the Ebola virus. The often-fatal Ebola hemorrhagic fever has appeared sporadically since its initial recognition in 1976.
Frederick Murphy/CDC

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An American doctor is in grave condition in the West African country of Liberia after contracting the Ebola virus.

Dr. Kent Brantly's mother, Jan Brantly, says her 33-year old son was exhausted after months of treating patients with the deadly disease. The second ailing American is Nancy Writebol, an aid worker with the allied aid group Serving in Mission, who was working in the same hospital.

West African doctors and nurses have also succumbed to the disease, in this most widespread outbreak in the virus' 40-year history. After being isolated to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone for the last four months, an airline traveler flying to Nigeria died of the disease in the capital of Lagos last week.

The deceased man, Patrick Sawyer - a Liberian working in Nigeria - had taken several flights on his journey. It’s unclear whether fellow passengers of Sawyer were screened or not before continuing their journeys in Lagos - the most populous city in Nigeria.

Now, screening procedures have been instituted at some airports in the affected countries. How could travel restrictions impact the spread – in the wake of the Nigerian death? How is the search being conducted for fellow travelers? Why aren’t we able to prevent the infection of healthcare workers? Why is this the largest outbreak in history?

With files from the Associated Press.

Guest:

Laurie Garrett, best-selling author of “The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance;” her new book is “I Heard the Sirens Scream: How Americans Responded to the 9/11 and Anthrax Attacks;” Senior Fellow in Global Health, Council on Foreign Relations