Abbas Dulleh / AP Photo

More US troops in Liberia for Ebola duty

There are now 300 US troops in the region; separately, the UK will start 'enhanced' Ebola screening of travelers

Six U.S. military planes arrived in the Ebola hot zone Thursday with more Marines, as West Africa's leaders pleaded for the world's help in dealing with a crisis that one called "a tragedy unforeseen in modern times."

"Our people are dying," Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma lamented by videoconference at a World Bank meeting in Washington. He said other countries are not responding fast enough while children are orphaned and infected doctors and nurses are lost to the disease.

Alpha Conde of Guinea said the region's countries are in "a very fragile situation."

Ebola is "an international threat and deserves an international response," he said, speaking through a translator as he sought money, medicine, equipment and training for health care workers.

The fleet of planes that landed outside the Liberian capital of Monrovia consisted of four MV-22 Ospreys and two KC-130s. The 100 additional Marines bring to just over 300 the total number of American troops in the country, said Maj. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, the commander leading the U.S. response.

The U.S. military will build medical centers in Liberia and in addition send up to 4,000 soldiers to help with the Ebola crisis. Medical workers and beds for Ebola patients are lacking.

As vehicles unloaded boxes of equipment wrapped in green-and-black cloth, the Marines formed a line on the tarmac and had their temperatures checked by Liberian health workers.

'Enhanced screening'

Meanwhile, British authorities said they would introduce "enhanced" screening of travelers for Ebola at Heathrow and Gatwick airports and Eurostar rail terminals.

Prime Minister David Cameron's office said passengers arriving from West Africa would be questioned about their travels and contacts. Some people could be given a medical assessment and advice on what to do if they develop symptoms.

Also Thursday, Liberian police used batons and rattan whips to disperse 100 protesters outside the National Assembly, where lawmakers were debating granting President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf more powers beyond those contained in a state of emergency declared in August. Her handling of the crisis has been criticized as heavy handed and ineffective.

The outbreak has killed more than 3,800 people, according to the latest World Health Organization figures. The vast majority of those deaths have been in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Vaccine tests

Elsewhere, University of Maryland researchers announced that the first study of a possible Ebola vaccine in Africa was underway. Scientists say three health care workers in Mali received the experimental shots developed by the U.S. government.

Mali has not had any cases of Ebola, but it borders the outbreak zone. Researchers say early safety tests should be done in Ebola-free countries to avoid complicating factors. If the vaccine appears to be safe, larger trials could be done in the outbreak zone early next year.

Sierra Leone officials finally released a shipping container filled with medical gear and mattresses that had been held up at the port for more than a month.

Ibrahim Bangura, an official who handles medical supplies, said the container's contents were finally in his possession on Thursday. Bureaucracy and political infighting were blamed for delay in distributing the aid.

In Guinea, where the first Ebola cases were confirmed back in March, Doctors Without Borders warned on Thursday of a "massive" influx of cases in the capital.

The aid group's center in Conakry received 22 patients on Monday alone, including 18 from the same region 50 kilometers east of the city, the group said, adding that its facilities were reaching their limits.

There was continued concern about Ebola in Spain, where the first person known to have caught the disease outside the outbreak zone in West Africa became sick.

The condition of Spanish nursing assistant Teresa Romero deteriorated on Thursday, said Yolanda Fuentes, deputy director of Madrid's Carlos III hospital.

Four doctors, four nurses, a hospital orderly and two beauty salon workers who came into contact with Romero have been admitted to the hospital, bringing to 14 the number of people being monitored at the center, health officials said late Thursday.

In Germany, a man infected in Liberia arrived Thursday at a hospital for treatment — the third Ebola patient to be flown to the country. The St. Georg Hospital in Leipzig said the patient works for the United Nations in Liberia.

The Associated Press

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