The Slatest

Updates on Ebola Outbreak: Dallas Worker With Possible Specimen Contact Is On Cruise Ship

Two health workers in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Josephus Olu-Mammah/Reuters

Slate will post running news updates about the ongoing Ebola story below. For other Slate coverage of Ebola, click here.

Update, 12:30 p.m.: President Obama has appointed Ron Klain, who served as chief of staff for both Joe Biden and Al Gore, as the administration’s Ebola response coordinator, a.k.a. “Ebola czar.” From the Washington Post

Klain, a longtime Democratic operative, served as Biden’s chief of staff from 2009 to 2011 and as Gore’s from 1995 to 1999. He helped oversee the Democratic side in the 2000 presidential election recount as its lead lawyer.

Since Klain left the White House in 2011 he’s apparently been working for Case Holdings, which manages the “business and philanthropic interests” of America Online co-founder Steve Case.

Update, 11:45 a.m.: A Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas employee who “might have had contact with specimens of [Ebola]” is on a cruise ship somewhere near Belize, the New York Times reports per the State Department. The employee is said not to have direct interaction with any symptomatic patient, and neither the employee or his/her traveling partner are apparently showing any signs of infection. They’ve nonetheless agreed to remain isolated on the ship, and efforts to bring them back to the United States are underway.

The worker “may have processed samples of fluids from Mr. Duncan” 19 days ago, the State Department says, and left on the cruise on Oct. 12. That was the day that Nina Pham was diagnosed with Ebola, and before Amber Vinson was diagnosed. Yesterday, the Times writes, “health care workers at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who are being monitored for Ebola symptoms were asked by Dallas County officials to voluntarily agree to avoid public places and not use public transportation, including commercial airliners and trains, during the 21-day incubation period of the virus.”

Original post, 10:29 a.m.: An internal document prepared by the World Health Organization—the U.N.’s public health arm—is heavily critical of the agency’s own response to the Ebola crisis, the Associated Press reports this morning. Says the self-critique: “Nearly everyone involved in the outbreak response failed to see some fairly plain writing on the wall.” From the AP:

The U.N. health agency acknowledged that, at times, even its own bureaucracy was a problem. It noted that the heads of WHO country offices in Africa are “politically motivated appointments” made by the WHO regional director for Africa, Dr. Luis Sambo, who does not answer to the agency’s chief in Geneva, Dr. Margaret Chan.

Other cited issues:

  • WHO Ebola experts failing to send reports on the crisis to WHO headquarters
  • The WHO’s Guinea chief refusing to help get visas for a response team
  • A debate between the WHO and Doctors Without Borders, carried out via social media, over whether the crisis was “out of control” (the WHO insisted it was not)

Almost 4,500 people have died of the disease in West Africa during the current outbreak. In a more positive development, the WHO announced today that none of the 74 people who came into contact with an Ebola patient in Senegal have developed the disease, and no other cases of the illness are reported in the country.