As Ebola infections climb, Minnesota communities combat virus' stigma


A second American who treated Thomas Eric Duncan at a Texas hospital tested positive for Ebola, CNN reports.

The health care worker reported a fever Tuesday and was immediately put into isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, the Texas Department of State Health Services announced Wednesday. A preliminary test was run late Tuesday, and the Centers for Disease Control is set to perform a confirmatory test.

The worker helped care for Duncan, the first person ever to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, and on Oct. 8, also the first person to die from it. He had recently traveled to Liberia.

Last week, nurse Nina Pham – who also cared for Duncan at the hospital – tested positive for Ebola, becoming the first person to contract the disease in the U.S.

According to the Los Angeles Times, officials say an error in protocol is what led to Pham contracting the virus. The paper says officials are concerned the same error could have exposed more workers to Ebola.

“We need to consider the possibility there could be additional cases, particularly among the healthcare workers who cared for the … patient when he was so ill,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden told the Times.

While the U.S. deals with the only two native cases its ever had, infections in West Africa nations continue to rise.

As of Oct. 10, the World Health Organization says 8,399 confirmed, probable, and suspected cases of Ebola have been reported in seven affected countries, including the United States.

All but 23 of those cases have occurred in Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone.

4,024 people in those nations have died from the disease.

Threat of Ebola looms over Minnesotans

The potential dangers of the virus are becoming more obtrusive in the lives of Minnesotans and other Americans who are connected to those countries.

Business owners in the Twin Cities area formed the Minnesota African Task Force Against Ebola to combat stigma and lack of education about the disease in the community, the Minnesota Daily reports.

The group is hosting information sessions and town halls, and visiting local schools and religious centers. Members are also asking members of the community to avoid traveling to West Africa, the paper reports.

One of the task force members is Tara DeWeever, co-owner of Mama-Ti's African Kitchen. Her fellow co-owner, Kellita Whisnant, told KSTP weeks ago customers are worried they might contract the Ebola virus from eating at the Liberian restaurant.

And that’s led to fewer customers coming through the doors.

The Associated Press reports West Africans in the U.S. are also faced with a difficult personal question: What to do with visitors from the affected area, who may not show symptoms of Ebola but are perceived as carrying even a small amount of risk.

Americans mostly confident

Despite the death of Duncan, the majority of Americans believe the country is prepared to handle an outbreak, NBC News reports.

The poll – which was conducted Oct. 8-12, prior to the second health care worker testing positive – found 52 percent of Americans say the country is prepared for an outbreak. Only about 10 percent say the U.S. is "very prepared" however.

On the other side, 42 percent said the nation is not prepared for an outbreak, NBC News reports. And 20 percent of respondents said the country isn't prepared "at all."

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