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Ebola Patients Remain Hospitalized In Texas, Nebraska

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

At the White House today, President Obama said his administration is taking aggressive action, in West Africa and in the U.S., to stop Ebola. And he said the federal government is working on additional steps to enhance passenger screening.

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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We're also going to be working on protocols to do additional passenger screening, both at the source and here in the United States. All of these things make me confident that here in the United States, at least, we - the chances of an outbreak of an epidemic here are extraordinarily low.

SIEGEL: Earlier today in Texas, Republican Governor Rick Perry called for just that kind of additional screening. We'll hear about the political pressure around this issue a little later. First, NPR's Wade Goodwyn begins our coverage from Dallas.

WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: At Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Ebola patient Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan took a turn for the worse over the weekend. Today, in an effort to save him, doctors are administering an experimental drug, brincidofovir - more about that in just a minute. As for the 10 close contacts who are being monitored for signs of Ebola, this begins their third week since exposure, a time when symptoms might present themselves. In Austin today, Governor Rick Perry called on the federal government to begin enhanced medical screening procedures of immigrants at all points of entry to the U.S.

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GOVERNOR RICK PERRY: These much-needed screening procedures will also necessitate fully staffed quarantine stations wherever people are entering the country.

GOODWYN: The first case of Ebola to come to the U.S. has become a rallying cry for some conservatives who would like tougher immigration laws. And the Texas governor is widely expected to be considering another run at the presidency. Perry announced a 17-member state task force to better prepare Texas for pandemic diseases. Dr. Brett Giroir, its leader, struck a softer tone.

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BRETT GIROIR: This is the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the United States, and it would be foolish to believe that there would be no lessons learned.

GOODWYN: Giroir said two immediate errors that need improvement are hospital preparedness, recognition of Ebola infection in its early stages and the government's relationship with those who've been in contact with the infected.

GIROIR: These are not just contacts. These are human beings who need food, clothing, sometimes even shelter. They may need social services and counseling, and we have realized very quickly that individuals involved are as diverse as the population in Texas. Cultural competency will be a critical factor in effective communication and collaboration.

GOODWYN: City leaders in Dallas acknowledged last week that it had been too focused on the might-be-infected aspect of those who'd been in close contact with Thomas Eric Duncan while ignoring the fact that these were very frightened people forcibly quarantined in an apartment teaming with possible Ebola infection. Dallas's faith community finally came to the family's rescue, procuring a nice, large apartment. It's no longer fun to be a resident of the Vickery Meadows, a diverse neighborhood in East Dallas where Duncan stayed. The first reports are coming in of residents being turned away because of their address. Jennifer Staubach Gates is the local city councilmember.

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JENNIFER STAUBACH GATES: We have some that have been turned away from jobs, some that have been turned away at retail locations.

GOODWYN: In Nebraska, no such problems as TV cameraman Ashoka Mukpo, the latest Ebola patient now in the country, was admitted to Nebraska Medical Center. Jeff Gold is the chancellor of the medical center.

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JEFF GOLD: We are honored and humbled to again have been called upon in a time when many are fearful about the spread of this disease.

GOODWYN: Nebraska Medical Center is one of four high-level bio-containment facilities in the country. Fifty-one-year-old Dr. Rick Sacra was successfully treated there last month. Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.