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Ebola Shows Small Signs Of Slowing In Liberia


A second person in the United States has tested positive for Ebola. The patient is a health care worker who'd been caring for Thomas Eric Duncan. Duncan died last week from the disease. He contracted Ebola while in Liberia, where the epidemic remains concentrated. President Obama says containing the virus there is the foundation of his plan to protect Americans from the virus. It's now been a month since the president promised thousands of U.S. soldiers and the millions of dollars in aid to the region. NPR's Jason Beaubien is in the Liberian capital of Monrovia. I spoke with him earlier and asked whether the U.S. response is having any effect.

JASON BEAUBIEN: Definitely, you can see that this response is ramping up. They've got about 350 U.S. troops in that ground. You know, 100 of them just showed up, you know, a few days ago. They've started doing some of the construction of these Ebola treatment centers. They've also been working on this hospital for health care workers that they're going to set up out near the airport. And, you know, more than that, you just see the U.S. troops around. We were at a WHO training where they're training people to work in these treatment units. And, you know, some of them - some of the American soldiers just dropped in to see what was going on. The thing is it's clear that even a month later, we're very much in the - laying the foundation for what the U.S. troops are going to do and sort of getting ready to start training the trainers to work eventually in these Ebola treatment units.

SHAPIRO: Well, according to the World Health Organization, there's at least a bit of good news that the spread of Ebola appears to be slowing in Liberia. They say their data is incomplete. What are you seeing on that front?

BEAUBIEN: You know, it does seem like there's some signs that things are slowing down. The government has lifted quarantines in a few areas up in the North of the country, which was really sort of the epicenter of this outbreak in Liberia early on. We're also hearing that there's some empty beds in some of the treatment centers here in Monrovia. So certainly, there does seem like some signs that things are slowing down.

You know, that said, you also are hearing from nurses that these treatment units, that they're still getting the same flow of people coming in. That it's just a steady stream. And we saw that at the Doctors Without Borders clinic just the other day - you know, just lines of cars of people pulling up, wanting their people checked, bringing in people who are just being carried out of vehicles. So I think it's a little too early to say that things are really slowing down in any significant way.

SHAPIRO: And can you briefly tell us how the problem is being handled of Ebola orphans whose parents have died from the disease and who themselves are stigmatize because the disease touched their family?

BEAUBIEN: Yeah, this is a huge problem. You've got so many people who are dying of Ebola, and many of them have children obviously. And those children might not be sick right away, but they are suspect. They, you know, most likely had contact with someone who was very sick. And we went to a facility, this new facility that they were going to open up; it's called an interim care center. And it's supposed to be, you know, a new way to sort of transition these kids back into the community. But it was really a mess. And the three kids that were there, one of them had been taken away that morning and sent back to the Ebola treatment unit. And they're getting ready to send the other two back into an Ebola treatment unit. And then they were just going to be empty. And this just sort of illustrates a lot of just the logistical problems of dealing with this outbreak that Liberia is still struggling with.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR global health correspondent Jason Beaubien speaking with us from Liberia. Thanks, Jason.

BEAUBIEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.