The plea for more health care workers to treat Ebola in Africa

The doctor who caught Ebola in West Africa was released from a New York hospital today. Dr. Craig Spencer is now Ebola-free, and so is the United States -- he was the last patient.

Spencer walked out of Bellevue Hospital and into a media frenzy. After thanking the staff who took care of him, he made this plea.

"Please join me in turning our attention back to West Africa, and ensuring that medical volunteers and other aid workers do not face stigma and threats upon their return home," Spencer asked.

Spencer has been a case study in the public's reaction to Ebola. His travel on the subway and trip to a bowling alley helped lead New York and New Jersey to establish a quarantine policy for health care workers returning from West Africa. Sixteen states now have some form of quarantine.

Carissa Guild traveled to Guinea with Doctors Without Borders. Now back in the U.S., she just finished 21-day quarantine.

"My family had planned a trip to Cape Cod," Guild said. "My family member decided he didn't want to come because he was afraid of me. How it worked out was that he decided to stay home and not come. I don't want to make people uncomfortable."

The stigma associated with Ebola is hampering efforts to control it in West Africa. Public health worker Lina Moses says it has led to a drop in local workers.

"If you're being ostracized in your communities, if your family is terrified that you're doing this, you're not getting paid for it, then there is little incentive to do what is necessary to stop this outbreak," Moses said.

A new American-built health care center opened over the weekend in Monrovia, Liberia. Facilities like this create a greater demand for workers. The United Nations estimates about 5,000 more workers are needed. As for Moses, she's already back in Sierra Leone.

"I think the people that are responding to this Ebola outbreak -- particularly the local staffs -- are heroes, and they should be applauded as they walk down the streets, instead of shunned," Moses said.

The experience with Ebola here may help ease fears. In the U.S., only the two nurses who had direct contact with the body fluids of an Ebola victim in Dallas became infected.

More than 800 others who had contact with the nine patients treated in America have remained free of the disease.

  • Jonathan LaPook

    Dr. Jonathan LaPook is the chief medical correspondent for the CBS Evening News. Follow him on Twitter at @DrLaPook