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American Ebola patient arrives in the US, a reminder that this epidemic is not over

The NIH Clinical Center in Maryland
The NIH Clinical Center in Maryland

Here's a reminder that the Ebola epidemic isn't over yet: another American health-care worker who contracted the virus while volunteering in Sierra Leone was just flown home for treatment.

The patient — who has not been named — arrived in the US by a private-charter medevac, getting to the NIH Clinical Center in Maryland after 4 am Friday. The patient will be the second to be treated for Ebola in the hospital's high-level isolation facility.

"NIH is taking every precaution to ensure the safety of our patients, NIH staff, and the public," read a statement from the hospital.

The other health worker to be treated at NIH was Nina Pham, a Dallas nurse who contracted Ebola while treating America's "patient zero," Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian who came down with Ebola while visiting family in Dallas.

Ebola's death toll tops 10,000

According to the latest World Health Organization data, more than 24,000 people have been infected with Ebola during this epidemic, which started in Guinea last year. More than 10,000 people have died, mostly in the three worst-affected countries, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

While the number of active cases has dropped drastically in West Africa since last fall, the countries are still struggling to get to zero cases. In particular, Sierra Leone — where the latest American patient was volunteering — has seen a worrying increase in cases recently.

All three countries are also grappling with the after-effects of the epidemic.

measles ebola 2

The impact of Ebola-related health-care disruptions on measles risk. (Courtesy of the journal Science)

In a paper in the journal Science yesterday, researchers reported that Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone — the three worst-affected countries — are now on alert for vaccine-preventable diseases, including the highly infectious and deadly virus measles.

The scientists explored West Africa's measles risk because during the Ebola crisis, routine vaccinations essentially ceased: many health facilities shut down, health workers walked off the job, and people didn't seek routine health care even when they could out of fear of catching Ebola.

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