Official: Ebola virus ‘not a huge threat’ to spread in U.S.

August 1, 2014

FILE – In this undated file image by the CDC shows an ebola Virus. U.S. health officials on Thursday, July 31, 2014, warned Americans not to travel to the three African countries, hit by an outbreak of Ebola. The travel advisory applies to non-essential travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. (AP Photo/CDC, File)

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Despite rising public awareness of a deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa and plans to bring two patients to the United States for treatment, Los Angeles County’s director of public health said the chances
of the virus reaching the Southland are extremely remote.

Dr. Jonathan Fielding said he had no concerns about a pair of health-care workers who contracted Ebola in Liberia being flown to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta for treatment.

“I’m not concerned about the process they’re using to bring them in nor about the ability of Emory because it is in a very close partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control,” Fielding said.

Emory is one of just four hospitals in the nation equipped with an isolation unit designed to maximize care of patients with serious infectious diseases while maintaining the safety of health-care workers.

“This Emory unit was created with the CDC, … it’s designed to optimize care for those with serious infectious diseases,” Fielding said.

The World Health Organization reports that more than 1,300 people have been infected with the virus in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, as of Wednesday. Nearly 730 deaths have been reported. U.S. health officials have advised Americans not to travel to the countries affected by the outbreak.

President Barack Obama said today U.S. officials were taking the outbreak seriously, and were working to provide assistance to the affected countries. A U.S.-African summit is scheduled to take place next week in Washington, D.C., next week, but leaders from Liberia and Sierra Leone have canceled plans to attend.

Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, told CNN that Americans should not feel threatened or overly concerned at news that Ebola will be on U.S. soil.

“I really hope people’s fear won’t outweigh their compassion,” he said.

Frieden said he understands why questions have arisen, saying, “I think we fear it because it’s so unfamiliar.”

“Ebola is a huge risk in Africa,” he said. “It’s not going to be a huge risk in the U.S.”

Los Angeles International Airport is home to one of 20 quarantine stations operated around the country by the Centers for Disease Control. The centers are designed to “limit the introduction of infectious diseases into the United States and to prevent their spread,” according to the CDC.

The LAX station serves Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Inyo and Kern counties.