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U.N. Ambassador Goes To Sierra Leone For Closer Look At Ebola Crisis

Updated at 1:15 p.m. ET

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations has arrived in Sierra Leone on her multi-nation swing through Ebola-stricken West Africa

Samantha Power, who arrived in the capital Freetown after visiting neighboring Guinea, has said Washington wants to help the region fight the deadly virus.

"We are in this with you for the long haul," she said Sunday after meeting with religious leaders in Guinea, where the epidemic has sickened nearly 5,000 people. "We have got to overcome the fear and the stigma that are associated with Ebola."

Power's arrival in Sierra Leone, where nearly 1,300 people have died from Ebola, comes as the Pentagon said that U.S. troops working to set up clinics and hospitals in neighboring Liberia are being isolated and monitored in Italy for symptoms of the disease. The Pentagon said the "controlled monitoring" of troops includes Major Gen. Darryl Williams, who is heading up the operation in Liberia, is also undergoing the mandatory monitoring.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the described the de facto quarantine as not a policy by the Department of Defense, but instead the decision of "one commanding officer."

The Associated Press says:

"On her Twitter account, Power expressed confidence that the epidemic would be defeated but quoted one worker at a non-government organization as saying that aid workers are "running behind a train & the train is going faster than us." She also described a "heartbreaking change" in Guinea: No one hugs or even touches, for fear of catching the disease.

"Health authorities are meant to rigorously track down everyone who has had contact with the sick and monitor or even isolate them during the disease's incubation period, which can last up to 21 days. However, the disease spread for so long before it was identified in West Africa that tracing contacts has been difficult, if not impossible, in the worst-hit countries."

Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concern about travel restrictions put in place by several countries for travel from Ebola-affected areas of West Africa, a spokesman says.

"He believes that these restrictions have put particular pressure on health care workers and those who have been on the frontline of the Ebola response," the spokesman said of Ban in a statement put out Monday.

"Returning health workers are exceptional people who are giving of themselves for humanity. They should not be subjected to restrictions that are not based on science. Those who develop infections should be supported, not stigmatized," the spokesman said.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: October 28, 2014 at 12:00 AM EDT
An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that 4,000 people have died of Ebola so far in Sierra Leone. World Health Organization data as of Oct. 25 put the number of cases at nearly 4,000 and the number of deaths at nearly 1,300.