Ebola: Liberian health workers plan strike

Liberian health officials are appealing to nurses and medical assistants not to go ahead with a national strike, as the Ebola epidemic continues.

The National Health Workers Association wants an increase in the monthly risk fee paid to those treating Ebola cases.

In the US, President Barack Obama has directed more steps to be taken to ensure high safety procedures when dealing with suspected Ebola patients.

A health worker treating an Ebola victim has herself caught the virus.

Liberia’s Assistant Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah said a strike would have negative consequences on those suffering from Ebola and would adversely affect progress made so far in the fight against the disease.

The government says the scale of the epidemic means it now cannot afford the risk fee originally agreed.

The risk fee is currently less than $500 a month, on top of basic salaries of between $200-$300. Staff are now seeking a risk fee of $700 a month.

The health workers also want personal protective equipment and insurance.

Ninety-five of their colleagues have so far died from Ebola. Liberia is one of the countries worst affected by the epidemic.

More than 4,000 people have so far died in the outbreak.

A new UN centre to co-ordinate the fight against the epidemic is being set up in Ghana.

UN aid workers and logisticians are being flown in to Accra, the BBC’s Mark Doyle reports. Ghana itself has not so far seen any Ebola cases.

Six months after the epidemic began in west Africa there are still only about a quarter of the treatment beds required to tackle it.

Food is now in short supply as markets are disrupted in some parts of the three countries worst affected: Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

In Liberia, elections have been postponed because the gathering of people at polling stations would endanger lives.

On Sunday evening, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that a female health worker had tested positive for Ebola in Dallas.

CDC chief Dr Tom Frieden has promised a full inquiry into how the transmission could have occurred.

The CDC investigation, he told reporters, would focus on possible breaches made during two “high-risk procedures”, dialysis and respiratory intubation.

The health worker at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital had been treating Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan, who caught the virus in his native Liberia and died on Wednesday.

She is now on an isolation ward and is said to be in a stable condition.

Dr Frieden said 48 other people who may also have had contact with Duncan were being observed.

Duncan tested positive in Dallas on 30 September, 10 days after arriving on a flight from Monrovia via Brussels.

He had become ill a few days after arriving in the US, and went to the hospital in Dallas with a high fever.

Symptoms of Ebola include fever, headache, vomiting, diarrhoea and bleeding. The virus is spread through contact with bodily fluids.