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CDC acknowledges it could have done more on Ebola

Published:Wednesday | October 15, 2014 | 12:00 AM

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP): The nation's top disease-fighting agency acknowledged Tuesday that federal health experts failed to do all they should have done to prevent Ebola from spreading from a Liberian man who died last week in Texas to the nurse who treated him.

The stark admission from the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came as the World Health Organization projected the pace of infections accelerating in West Africa - to as many as 10,000 new cases a week within two months.

Agency Director Tom Frieden outlined a series of steps designed to stop the spread of the disease in the United States (US), including increased training for health-care workers and changes at the Texas hospital where the virus was diagnosed to minimise the risk of more infections.

possible exposure

A total of 76 people at the hospital might have had exposure to Thomas Eric Duncan, and all of them are being monitored for fever and other symptoms daily, Frieden said.

That figure confirmed an Associated Press report on Monday that Pham was among about 70 hospital staffers who were involved in Duncan's care after he was hospitalised, based on medical records provided by Duncan's family.

The announcement of the government's stepped-up effort came after top health officials repeatedly assured the public over the last two weeks that they were doing everything possible to control the outbreak by deploying infectious-disease specialists to the hospital where Duncan was diagnosed with Ebola and later died.

"I wish we had put a team like this on the ground the day the patient - the first patient - was diagnosed. That might have prevented this infection. But we will do that from today onward with any case anywhere in the US," Frieden said.

Frieden described the new response team as having some of the world's leading experts in how to care for Ebola and protect health-care workers. They planned to review everything from how the isolation room is physically laid out, to what protective equipment health workers use, to waste management and decontamination.

In Europe, the WHO said the death rate in the outbreak has risen to 70 per cent, as it has killed nearly 4,500 people, most of them in West Africa. The previous mortality rate was about 50 per cent.