Some hospitals fear stigma of Ebola patients

Despite progress in containing Ebola in the United States, some hospitals are reluctant to treat new cases because of the potential cost and stigma of caring for patients who have the deadly virus, the Washington Post reports.

As health officials attempt to create networks of hospitals prepared to treat Ebola patients, they're encountering hospitals that say "'Look, we might be willing to do this, but we don't want to be called an Ebola hospital. We don't want people to be cancelling appointments left and right,'" Michael Bell, director of laboratory safety at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told the Post.

The U.S. currently has four biocontainment units to handle Ebola, which can only accommodate two or three patients at a time, according to the article. Several other hospitals have volunteered to accept Ebola patients, but it remains unclear how many the CDC will approve and whether there will be enough to implement the network of Ebola-ready hospitals the agency envisions.

Meanwhile, of the three West African countries affected most by the Ebola outbreak, only Guinea is on track to meet the World Health Organization's (WHO) containment goals, according to the Associated Press. The WHO's plan set a target of 70 percent for both isolation among Ebola patients and safe burial of those who succumb to the the virus. As of last week, Liberia had only isolated 23 percent of cases and put burial teams in place for 26 percent of victims, while Sierra Leone had isolated 40 percent of patients and activated 27 percent of burial teams.

Despite reports this month of progress in combating the outbreak in Liberia, the WHO reports Ebola has caused 6,928 deaths in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Therefore, health agencies must remain alert, said Tony Banbury, head of the UN Ebola response mission in West Africa.

"It may spread around this sub-region, or someone could get on a plane to Asia, Latin America, North America or Europe," Banbury told BBC News. "That is why it is so important to get down to zero cases as quickly as possible."

Meanwhile, a potential vaccine for the virus is producing an improved immune response in test subjects, according to Tech Analyst. "The vaccine caused the immune system to respond to the bits of Ebola virus and resulted in the generation of CD8 T cells, which help the immune system to fight off infections like this," said Tony Fauci, M.D., head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

To learn more:
- read the Post article
- here's the AP article
- check out the BBC report
- read the Tech Analyst coverage
- see the latest WHO statistics