Ebola workers ask Congress for help

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California nurses strike over patient care, Ebola
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Ebola workers ask Congress for help
More than 100 registered nurses and supporters picket outside a Kaiser Permanente facility in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday Nov. 11, 2014. As many as 18,000 nurses are participating in a statewide two-day strike to call attention to what they say is an erosion in patient care and lack of preparation for treating Ebola at Kaiser facilities. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Registered nurse Anca Bahlaquisd takes a seat for a moment while joining more than 100 other nurses and supporters picketing outside a Kaiser Permanente facility in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday Nov. 11, 2014. As many as 18,000 nurses are participating in a statewide two-day strike to call attention to what they say is an erosion in patient care and lack of preparation for treating Ebola at Kaiser facilities. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Registered nurses Marilyn Welch, left, Joann Medina, center, and Sherry Kohles join more than 100 other nurses and supporters picketing outside a Kaiser Permanente facility in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday Nov. 11, 2014. As many as 18,000 nurses are participating in a statewide two-day strike to call attention to what they say is an erosion in patient care and lack of preparation for treating Ebola at Kaiser facilities.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 11: A security guard looks through a window as nurses strike outside of Kaiser Permanente hospital on November 11, 2014 in San Francisco, California. Nearly 18,000 Kaiser Permanente nurses in Northern California are staging a two-day strike amidst contract negotiations and to demand better working conditions, training and optimal safeguards for treating ebola. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 11: Nurses carry signs as they strike outside of Kaiser Permanente hospital on November 11, 2014 in San Francisco, California. Nearly 18,000 Kaiser Permanente nurses in Northern California are staging a two-day strike amidst contract negotiations and to demand better working conditions, training and optimal safeguards for treating ebola. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 11: Nurses carry signs as they strike outside of Kaiser Permanente hospital on November 11, 2014 in San Francisco, California. Nearly 18,000 Kaiser Permanente nurses in Northern California are staging a two-day strike amidst contract negotiations and to demand better working conditions, training and optimal safeguards for treating ebola. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 11: Nurses carry signs as they strike outside of Kaiser Permanente hospital on November 11, 2014 in San Francisco, California. Nearly 18,000 Kaiser Permanente nurses in Northern California are staging a two-day strike amidst contract negotiations and to demand better working conditions, training and optimal safeguards for treating ebola. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 11: Nurses carry signs as they strike outside of Kaiser Permanente hospital on November 11, 2014 in San Francisco, California. Nearly 18,000 Kaiser Permanente nurses in Northern California are staging a two-day strike amidst contract negotiations and to demand better working conditions, training and optimal safeguards for treating ebola. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 11: Nurses carry signs as they strike outside of Kaiser Permanente hospital on November 11, 2014 in San Francisco, California. Nearly 18,000 Kaiser Permanente nurses in Northern California are staging a two-day strike amidst contract negotiations and to demand better working conditions, training and optimal safeguards for treating ebola. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 11: Nurses carry signs as they strike outside of Kaiser Permanente hospital on November 11, 2014 in San Francisco, California. Nearly 18,000 Kaiser Permanente nurses in Northern California are staging a two-day strike amidst contract negotiations and to demand better working conditions, training and optimal safeguards for treating ebola. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 11: Nurses carry signs as they strike outside of Kaiser Permanente hospital on November 11, 2014 in San Francisco, California. Nearly 18,000 Kaiser Permanente nurses in Northern California are staging a two-day strike amidst contract negotiations and to demand better working conditions, training and optimal safeguards for treating ebola. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 11: Nurses carry signs as they strike outside of Kaiser Permanente hospital on November 11, 2014 in San Francisco, California. Nearly 18,000 Kaiser Permanente nurses in Northern California are staging a two-day strike amidst contract negotiations and to demand better working conditions, training and optimal safeguards for treating ebola. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration told Congress Wednesday that a $6.2 billion emergency aid request to fight Ebola is crucial to tackling the epidemic in West Africa and preventing it at home, to continue the training of 250,000 U.S. nurses and other health workers in how to safely handle any infected patients who arrive in this country.

"These resources are essential to stop the outbreak in Africa, and protect us," said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday began evaluating the request, which includes $4.64 billion in immediate spending to fight the outbreak abroad, shore up U.S. preparedness, and speed the development and testing of Ebola vaccines and treatments.

More than $1.5 billion would be for a contingency fund to deal with any unexpected developments, such as if Ebola begins spreading in another country neighboring the hardest-hit Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who chairs the committee, said Congress passed similar amounts of emergency funding when bird flu emerged as a possible health threat, and for the 2009 flu pandemic.

For Ebola, "we need to contain the disease and we need to eradicate it," she said.

But Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., asked if the administration has taken enough security measures against Ebola, and said such a large spending request "deserves our careful oversight and scrutiny."

Shortly before the hearing started, Army Maj. Gen. Gary Voleski said the U.S. military's Ebola response in Liberia will top out at 3,000 troops, 1,000 fewer than had been planned. "There is a lot of capacity here that we didn't know about before," he said.

While there currently are no reported Ebola cases in the U.S., Wednesday's hearing came amid some sobering news. The World Health Organization reported that more than 5,000 people had died in the Ebola outbreak. And while the number of infections is slowing in some parts of West Africa, WHO said cases still are surging in Sierra Leone. Worse, neighboring Mali on Wednesday reported three deaths linked to Ebola.

"We're not yet at a point where we can have confidence that we're turning the corner, even in Liberia," said Andy Gleadle of the International Medical Corps, which is running a treatment center in Liberia and plans to open another in that country and two more in Sierra Leone.

Even with increasing global attention to the epidemic, it takes time to train new health workers, build field hospitals, and buy protective equipment for doctors and nurses.

"Let's say President Obama gives us another $5 million tomorrow morning - which would be very nice, thank you - but it takes weeks to absorb that funding and implement it on the ground," added Gleadle, who is responsible for the charity's response in Sierra Leone.

Money won't solve everything, said Benoit Carpentier, a spokesman with the International Federation of the Red Cross, whose teams are carrying out safe burials and running a treatment center. Time might be the scarcest resource now, he said: Time to reach remote villages and explain how the virus is transmitted, time to persuade people to change their behaviors so they don't spread the disease, time to track down people who have come in contact with the sick. It's difficult for health workers and others to keep up.

Among the proposed spending:

-$1.83 billion for the CDC, to be divided between fighting the epidemic in West Africa, ramping up U.S. preparedness and global health security - helping other vulnerable countries build the health systems and train their workers to spot and respond to early signs of outbreaks.

-On the domestic front, the CDC would support more than 50 hospitals around the country designated as being capable of safely treating Ebola cases, train health workers and health departments how to screen for Ebola and handle suspect and confirmed cases, and buy protective equipment for the national stockpile.

-Also included is $238 million for the National Institutes of Health for clinical trials of experimental vaccines and treatments.

-The U.S. Agency for International Development and State Department would receive about $2 billion to further scale up assistance in West Africa.

Related Gallery: US Ebola Victims

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Current Ebola U.S. Ebola victims - Americans - quarantine - deadly virus
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Ebola workers ask Congress for help

Dr. Craig Spencer of New York City was quarantined on October 23, 2014 at Bellevue Hospital and released November 11, 2014.

(Image: LinkedIn)

Thomas E. Duncan, admitted to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on September 28, 2014; died on October 8, 2014.

(Image: AP)

Nina Pham, admitted to the National Institutes of Health on October 16, 2014 and was released October 24, 2014.

(Image: AP)

Amber Vinson, admitted to Emory University Hospital on October 15, 2014 and released October 28th, 2014.

(Image: Twitter)

Nancy Writebol was discharged from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta on August 19, 2014.

(Image: AP)

Dr. Kent Brantly walked was discharged from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta on Thursday, August 21, 2014.

(Image: AP)

Dr. Rick Sacra was discharged from Nebraska Medical Center on September 25, 2014.

(Image: AP)

Ashoka Mukpo was discharged from Nebraska Medical Center on October 22, 2014.

(Image: AP)

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