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Oct. 27 (GIN) – With media stoking fears of a spreading Ebola crisis, medical professionals and other experts have been taking pains to keep cool heads above the super-heated news frenzy.

They forced a retreat this week to plans by Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie of New York and New Jersey, who threatened to quarantine all arrivals from the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea in tents for 21 days. A quarantined doctor with no symptoms held at the Newark, NJ airport was released after she threatened to sue the state.

Speaking today on the DemocracyNow news show, the director of the noted Earth Institute, Jeffrey Sachs, discussed his recent article “We Don’t Need an Ebola Czar.”

“President Obama should be backing up his real Ebola leader, Tom Frieden, the head of the Centers for Disease Control, rather than appointing somebody who obviously lacks the necessary knowledge and experience to head an Ebola effort.

“This was politics,” he charged, adding that Obama’s hand appeared to be forced by what he called “a disgraceful show in Congress, when congressmen who had been cutting the CDC budget for years, then went after Frieden who is one of the world’s most experienced leaders in public health.”

“Rather than asking: ‘What can we do for you, Dr Frieden, to help ensure a quality U.S. effort?’ they started making accusations,” he said.

Sachs commented on a report from Jubilee USA, an alliance of faith based and social justice groups - to the effect that Guinea now spends more repaying foreign debt that it spends on public health. Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, said the group, spend together nearly $200 million a year on debt.

In 2010, they group observed, the U.S. passed a law supporting debt relief for Haiti after the earthquake. What about doing the same thing for these countries?

Sachs recalled his own frustrated efforts to raise funds for community health workers in Liberia, before the Ebola epidemic had started. “The answer from all of the international agencies is, "There’s no money here, and Liberia is not much of a priority. Come back in the next funding cycle.”

Questions were posed to Nancy Kass, professor of bioethics and public health at Johns Hopkins University.

“Clearly, we need people on the ground,” she said, especially people providing direct care in the treatment centers to sick patients. She expressed dismay that the 3,000 volunteers promised by the Dept of Defense had not yet arrived.

On the contrary, she noted, the Democratic Republic of Congo recently sent 1,000 healthcare workers to Liberia. “Obviously, Congo has experience with Ebola from past outbreaks, and they were willing to send healthcare workers there.”

Meanwhile, a new commander has taken over the US military mission to fight Ebola in West Africa, the Pentagon announced. The troops, who arrived in Liberia 38 days ago, have put up two new laboratories and a 25-bed hospital which should be operational in the capital Monrovia by November. w/pix of Dr. Tom Frieden in Monrovia

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