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Extra US troops on standby for Ebola response mission

The US has authorized that military reservists can join humanitarian efforts to combat Ebola in West Africa if needed. Meanwhile, EU health ministers have met in Brussels to work out a common strategy to fight Ebola.

US President Barack Obama authorized the Pentagon on Thursday to call up reserve and National Guard troops to assist in the US response to the Ebola crisis if they are needed.

The US had already committed to sending up to 4,000 military personnel to West Africa to provide logistics and help build treatment units as part of a mission to stop the spread of the virus.

Obama signed an executive order allowing the Pentagon to use military reservists to support humanitarian aid efforts, and he also notified top congressional officials of the move.

However, the White House had said the troops would not provide direct healthcare aid as part of the US Ebola mission in West Africa.

Nearly 4,500 people have died from the Ebola outbreak, most of them in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

EU push for coordinated effort

EU health ministers met in Brussels on Thursday to coordinate a response to the Ebola outbreak, as more suspected cases emerged in Europe.

They agreed to help improve systems already set up in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea to screen passengers on commercial flights departing from the three worst-hit countries.

Ebola Screening Heathrow London Großbritannien 14.10.

Ebola screening at Heathrow airport, London.

France, the UK and the Czech Republic had already announced plans to screen passengers arriving from West Africa, but there was no framework for requiring member states to take such measures.

The ministers agreed to create a common questionnaire for travelers arriving from Ebola-affected areas, so that information sharing and communication could be streamlined.

The European Commission was also trying to reach an agreement with the US to use State Department planes to repatriate EU healthcare workers who contract the virus in West Africa.

UN call to act on pledges

Elsewhere, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for the response to the Ebola crisis to be stepped up.

“Ebola is a huge and urgent global problem that demands a huge and urgent global response,” Ban told reporters in New York. “The people and governments of West Africa are demonstrating significant resilience, but they have asked for our help."

“Dozens of countries are showing their solidarity. But we need to turn pledges into action. We need more doctors, nurses, equipment, treatment centres and medevac capacities,” he continued.

The World Health Organization also warned of the continuously deteriorating situation in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The latest figures from the UN health agency indicate a total of 8,997 cases in seven countries - Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain and the US -and 4,493 deaths.

lw/av (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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