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Ebola Continues Its Baleful Advance In Liberia


America's first diagnosed Ebola victim has gone from serious to critical condition. Thomas Duncan remains in a hospital in Dallas. So far, his family shows no signs of the disease. Authorities continue to monitor some 50 other people in Dallas who may be at risk. Duncan recently arrived in the U.S. from Liberia. He likely contracted the disease there while helping a pregnant woman reach a hospital. She died from Ebola not long after. NPR's Jason Beaubien is in Liberia's capital and joins us from Monrovia. Welcome.

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: Hi, it's good to be with you.

SHAPIRO: Thomas Duncan was accused of lying on his exit form when he left Liberia for the U.S. How is the Liberian government responding?

BEAUBIEN: You know, there's a lot of anger over this. This is viewed as really an embarrassment to Liberia. And so they're saying that he didn't check the correct box about whether or not he had been in contact with anyone else who has Ebola. You know, these statements really have a lot to do with the frustration, I think, of people here. The bottom line, however, is that it is very easy for someone to get on a plane from here with Ebola. I was talking to doctors about it today. They were saying that someone who was even really sick, and Duncan wasn't even really sick, could just take some Tylenol, drive down their fever, get past the thermometer screenings and get on a plane.

SHAPIRO: From what you can tell having just arrived back in Liberia for your second visit, has the U.S. effort to aid victims accelerated or changed recently?

BEAUBIEN: Well, there definitely is an inflow of people here. I was here in late August, and now I'm back. And things are completely different. Back in August, it didn't feel like there were many aid workers here at all. And now, the hotels where Westerners, aid people tend to stay are filled up. Certainly, the U.S. has been a catalyst for that, really driving European nations, a lot of other nongovernmental organizations to get people on the ground here. Things are still moving slowly. You know, we have not seen any of these 17 new Ebola treatment centers that President Obama promised. But there definitely is a sense of things moving forward. That is completely different from what I was seeing back in August.

SHAPIRO: We've heard a lot about the efforts to physically isolate people who may have caught Ebola. There's also a lot of stigma around the disease. And I wonder what you can tell us about what patients and health workers are doing to address the social isolation factor.

BEAUBIEN: This is probably one of the hardest things about this disease, is that it's spread by touch and that people are afraid of one another. You know, even out on the street, you know, as we were driving back to the hotel, you could see that the people waiting for the buses had all separated a full arm's-length apart from each other. And that's just never seen in Africa. You know, I was hearing today from some people about nurses who would get completely suited up and about to go into these isolation wards, and they would hug each other 'cause it's the only time that they are actually allowed to do that. And also heard from another health care worker today about this sort of awful scene on one of the ward that's for suspected cases. And there was a mother there. And her young baby had just died from Ebola. And she just started wailing and screaming. And every one just moved away from her. So in this moment of great grief where people would normally move toward someone to comfort them, everyone on the ward just started moving away from this mother wailing over the death of her child.

SHAPIRO: Powerful images from NPR's Jason Beaubien, our global health correspondent in Monrovia, Liberia. Thanks, Jason.

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