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Latest News: Cameron delivers English votes vow

LIVE: David Cameron's keynote Conservative Party conference speech

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised "English votes for English laws" in his speech to the Conservative Party conference.

Mr Cameron made a "vow" to deliver the reform following the 'No' vote in the Scottish independence referendum.

The PM told the conference in Birmingham that agreeing to a referendum was the right decision.

"Duck the fight, and our union could have been taken apart bit by bit," he said.

He also said there was "no walk on by" option in the battle against the "evil" Islamic State.

He said that if the UK did not deal with them, "they will deal with us".

David CameronDavid Cameron was using a script for his speech
Samantha CameronSamantha Cameron watches her husband deliver his speech
CabinetThe PM did a William Hague impression as he paid tribute to the ex-Foreign Secretary

The PM also spoke of his pride in Britain after the Scottish referendum result and the D-Day anniversary.

He is set to say funding for the NHS in England would be protected from cuts for five years if he wins the election.

Mr Cameron was introduced to the stage by Conservative Chief Whip Michael Gove, who praised his "calmness, resolution and courage".

"If you work hard, we will cut your taxes, but only if we can keep cutting the deficit so we can afford to do that," Mr Cameron said.

"He also pledged help for people trying to get on the housing ladder, and said people would have to "work a bit longer and save a bit more".

'Strong economy'

The NHS pledge is a repeat of the policy on which the Conservatives fought the 2010 general election.

Mr Cameron will say it is only possible because of the strength of the economy under his party's stewardship.

And he will ask voters for another five years to finish the job of recovery.

BBC political editor Nick Robinson said he had been told to expect "a really significant policy announcement" in the speech.

Mr Cameron will hail NHS advances in DNA research - making a passing reference to his profoundly disabled son Ivan, who died in 2009 - telling party members: "The next Conservative government will protect the NHS budget and continue to invest more.

"Because we know this truth - something Labour will never acknowledge and we will never forget - you can only have a strong NHS if you have a strong economy."

David Cameron working on his conference speechDavid Cameron will say his goal is to help people lead a better life

NHS spending has risen at just above the rate of inflation since 2010 but critics argue this amounts to a budget freeze because of increased demand for its services and higher pension costs.

The prime minster has also faced criticism from within his own party over the NHS ring-fence as it means a big squeeze on the budgets of other departments.

Mr Cameron will seek to use his final conference speech before the general election to make an emotional appeal to voters and show his party has more to offer them than austerity.

"I love this country - and my goal is this," he will say.

"To make Britain a country that everyone is proud to call home. That doesn't just mean having the fastest-growing economy, or climbing some international league table.

"I didn't come into politics to make the lines in the graphs go in the right direction. I want to help you live a better life."

UKIP defections

The party has unveiled a string of policies this week - on health, housing and pensions - that it hopes will show hard-pressed voters it is on their side.

Chancellor George Osborne also unveiled a two-year freeze on working-age benefits, criticised by some as an attack on the poor.

The conference has also been overshadowed to some extent by rumours about possible further defections after MP Mark Reckless's surprise decision to jump ship to UKIP.

On the eve of Mr Cameron's speech, former Conservative Party donor Arron Banks announced he was switching his allegiance to Nigel Farage's party and could stand in next May's election.

The insurance entrepreneur said Mr Cameron's goal of renegotiating powers back from the EU was a "myth".

House of Commons Leader William Hague hit back, saying he had never heard of Mr Banks.

The prime minister's task is to banish the defections from his party's mind and give them a clear message to sell to voters on the doorstep next May.

"If our economic plan for the past four years has been about our country, and saving it from economic ruin, our plan for the next five years will be about you and your family and helping you get on," he will tell the party faithful.

'Pinch of salt'

Mr Cameron chose to deliver his speech from behind a lectern with notes - in clear contrast to Labour leader Ed Miliband who last week came in for some flak for forgetting key passages of his speech.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said Mr Cameron's promises on the NHS "have been shown to be not worth the paper they are written on".

"People will take David Cameron's pre-election pledges on the NHS with a large pinch of salt," he said.

"Last time, he promised 'real-terms increases' but then cut NHS spending in his very first year in office.

"He promised 'no top-down reorganisation' but then brought forward the biggest ever, throwing the NHS into chaos and siphoning £3bn out of front-line care to pay for it.

"He promised no privatisation but has proceeded to put NHS services up for sale without the permission of the public. He promised to protect the NHS but its getting harder to see your GP and waiting times are going up."

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Latest News: Europe schism casts pall over British PM Cameron's big day

By Andrew Osborn and William James

BIRMINGHAM England (Reuters) - A schism over Europe cast a pall over the final day of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative party conference, the last before a national election next year, after a party donor became the latest figure to defect to the anti-EU UKIP party.

Hours before Cameron was due to deliver a keynote speech, Arron Banks, a businessman who electoral records show has given tens of thousands of pounds to Cameron's party, said he was switching his support to the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

His move follows that of two Conservative lawmakers to UKIP, which wants an immediate British EU exit and sharp curbs on immigration, and will ratchet up fears in Cameron's party that UKIP will split the centre-right vote in May 2015 and allow the opposition Labour party to win.

Nigel Farage, UKIP's leader, hailed the defection, which follows that of two Conservative lawmakers, as a sign his insurgent party was attracting big financial backers to bankroll what he has described as an earthquake in British politics.

"The other parties are losing Councillors, MPs and backers to UKIP, not only voters, and they are all playing their part in changing the course of politics in the UK for good," Farage said in a statement. "Our people's army is really starting to grow".

Cameron's party played down the defection with William Hague, a senior Conservative lawmaker, saying Banks was not a senior figure in the party.

"I’ve never heard of him so we are not going to get too upset about that," Hague told BBC radio. "It’s certainly not going to overshadow the prime minister’s speech today that someone we haven’t heard of has gone to UKIP.

Trailing the opposition Labour party in most opinion polls, Cameron is straining to pacify the Eurosceptic wing of his own party which wants him to offer firmer commitments on changing Britain's relationship with Europe.

He has promised to renegotiate Britain's EU ties if re-elected before holding an EU membership referendum in 2017, but has been coy about spelling out what he wants to change with some Conservatives sceptical about the strength of his resolve.

Cameron is due to deliver a keynote speech to his party's annual conference later on Wednesday which he is expected to use to try to calm jitters and to promise new funding for Britain's National Health Service, an important domestic issue that voters list as one of their priorities.

But just hours before he was due to speak, Banks made his bombshell announcement, saying UKIP had won him over.

"Being a member of the EU is like having a first class ticket on the Titanic," he added, referring to the doomed ocean liner. "Economically, remaining in the EU is unsustainable."

UKIP said Banks would present it with a cheque for 100,000 pounds (161,680 US dollar) later on Wednesday.

The timing of the news was designed to embarrass the British leader and persuade other Conservatives to follow suit.

Increasingly Eurosceptic rhetoric has stoked concerns among some big business leaders who largely support Britain's EU membership.

Conservative lawmaker John Redwood even cautioned big business to keep out of the EU debate, saying its job was to keep shareholders, employees and customers happy rather than playing politics.

"Big business, recognise you have not been good at judging the best interests of the UK," Redwood said in a statement.

HEALTH GAMBIT

Cameron is expected to promise increased healthcare spending in his speech if voters re-elect him next year -- a political carrot aimed at balancing the stick of welfare cuts set out by his finance minister earlier in the week.

His speech will attempt to overcome a slew of negative headlines generated by finance minister George Osborne on Monday, who set out plans to freeze welfare payments and extend swingeing government spending cuts to pull the country's public finances out of the red.

"I didn't come into politics to make the lines on the graphs go in the right direction," Cameron will say, according to extracts of his speech in comments designed to address criticism that his centre-right party prioritises deficit reduction over social security issues.

Opinion polls show that the future of Britain's internationally-renowned National Health Service (NHS) is a key issue for voters, and that the opposition Labour party is more trusted to protect the service than the Conservatives.

Cameron will attempt to claw back some ground on the issue with a pledge to increase the NHS budget and insulate it from the drastic cuts faced by other government departments over the coming years as part of the drive to balance Britain's books.

"The next Conservative government will protect the NHS budget and continue to invest more," Cameron will say.

(Editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

Latest News: VIDEO: US Ebola patient 'critically ill'

A man has become the first case of Ebola to be diagnosed on US soil.

Health officials say he was admitted to hospital four days after he fell ill, and they are urgently trying to trace everyone he was in contact with, for fear he may have infected them.

The virus has so far killed more than 3,000 people in West Africa, the World Health Organization says.

Alastair Leithead reports.

Latest News: Europe schism casts pall over Cameron's big day

By Andrew Osborn and William James

BIRMINGHAM England (Reuters) - A schism over Europe cast a pall over the final day of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative party conference, the last before a national election next year, after a party donor became the latest figure to defect to the anti-EU UKIP party.

Hours before Cameron was due to deliver a keynote speech, Arron Banks, a businessman who UKIP said had given hundreds of thousands of pounds to Cameron's party, said he was switching his support to the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

His move follows that of two Conservative MPs to UKIP, which wants an immediate British EU exit and sharp curbs on immigration, and will ratchet up fears in Cameron's party that UKIP will split the centre-right vote in May 2015 and allow the opposition Labour party to win.

Nigel Farage, UKIP's leader, hailed the defection, which follows that of two Conservative MPs, as a sign his insurgent party was attracting big financial backers to bankroll what he has described as an earthquake in British politics.

"The other parties are losing Councillors, MPs and backers to UKIP, not only voters, and they are all playing their part in changing the course of politics in the UK for good," Farage said in a statement. "Our people's army is really starting to grow".

Trailing the opposition Labour party in most opinion polls, Cameron is straining to pacify the Eurosceptic wing of his own party which wants him to offer firmer commitments on changing Britain's relationship with Europe.

He has promised to renegotiate Britain's EU ties if re-elected before holding an EU membership referendum in 2017, but has been coy about spelling out what he wants to change with some Conservatives sceptical about the strength of his resolve.

Cameron is due to deliver a keynote speech to his party's annual conference later on Wednesday which he is expected to use to try to calm jitters and to promise new funding for Britain's National Health Service, an important domestic issue that voters list as one of their priorities.

But just hours before he was due to speak, Banks made his bombshell announcement, saying UKIP had won him over.

"Being a member of the EU is like having a first class ticket on the Titanic," he added, referring to the doomed ocean liner. "Economically, remaining in the EU is unsustainable."

UKIP said Banks would present it with a cheque for 100,000 pounds later on Wednesday.

The timing of the news was designed to embarrass the British leader and persuade other Conservatives to follow suit.

Increasingly Eurosceptic rhetoric has stoked concerns among some big business leaders who largely support Britain's EU membership.

Conservative lawmaker John Redwood even cautioned big business to keep out of the EU debate, saying its job was to keep shareholders, employees and customers happy rather than playing politics.

"Big business, recognise you have not been good at judging the best interests of the UK," Redwood said in a statement.

HEALTH GAMBIT

Cameron is expected to promise increased healthcare spending in his speech if voters re-elect him next year -- a political carrot aimed at balancing the stick of welfare cuts set out by his chancellor earlier in the week.

His speech will attempt to overcome a slew of negative headlines generated by Chancellor George Osborne on Monday, who set out plans to freeze welfare payments and extend swingeing government spending cuts to pull the country's public finances out of the red.

"I didn't come into politics to make the lines on the graphs go in the right direction," Cameron will say, according to extracts of his speech in comments designed to address criticism that his centre-right party prioritises deficit reduction over social security issues.

Opinion polls show that the future of Britain's internationally-renowned National Health Service (NHS) is a key issue for voters, and that the opposition Labour party is more trusted to protect the service than the Conservatives.

Cameron will attempt to claw back some ground on the issue with a pledge to increase the NHS budget and insulate it from the drastic cuts faced by other government departments over the coming years as part of the drive to balance Britain's books.

"The next Conservative government will protect the NHS budget and continue to invest more," Cameron will say.

(Editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

Latest News: Analysis - Plant-based vaccines challenge big pharma for $3 billion flu market

By Sharon Begley

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two tiny companies are preparing to challenge some of the world's largest drug makers in the battle for dominance in the $3 billion global market for influenza vaccines, armed with little more than tiny tobacco plants.

The use of plants to produce life-saving pharmaceuticals captured global attention when it was revealed that the Ebola drug ZMapp is produced in the leaves of tobacco plants.

Even as Ebola cases multiply in West Africa, a far greater market for plant-based biopharmaceuticals will likely be influenza vaccines used to fight pandemics, industry experts said. Making vaccines from plants may turn out to be faster and cheaper than current methods which use chicken eggs to grow the virus needed to make the vaccines.

Leading producers such as GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Sanofi SA need six months to produce flu vaccine once scientists identify the dominant virus expected to circulate during flu season. Vaccine production from tobacco plants by Quebec City-based Medicago or Bryan, Texas-based Caliber Biotherapeutics could do it in weeks.

"Seven to 10 years from now, plants might be the dominant vaccine-production system," said Brett Giroir, an M.D. and CEO of Texas A&M Health Science Centre in Bryan. Texas A&M has one of three U.S. facilities tasked by the government with being ready to produce and deliver 50 million doses of flu vaccine in just 12 weeks. It is working with Caliber toward that goal.

If the upstarts succeed, they will make little difference to the tobacco industry, which regards even a $3 billion market as marginal. But they could threaten the pharma giants that dominate flu vaccine production - or be gobbled up by them.

Medicago is now testing its flu vaccine in elderly people, who are most at risk, and plans to launch a large human trial in 2016. "We hope to hit the market in 2019," said Jean-Luc Martre, director of government affairs.

Tobacco plants could be enlisted in the fight against flu even sooner if a pandemic hit. The 50 million doses that labs like Texas A&M's pledged they'd be able to produce in a few months can't be manufactured in today's egg-based systems.

"If there is a need for it that requires plant-based production, we'd turn to Caliber," said Giroir, referring to an accelerated vaccine-production schedule to counter a flu pandemic.

WAITING FOR CHICKEN EGGS

Each year, manufacturers including Sanofi, Novartis , the Medimmune unit of AstraZeneca and GSK make about 155 million doses of flu vaccine for the U.S. market alone, growing the virus in chicken eggs. Usually the doses, which protect against strains that experts predicted the previous February, are ready in time and in sufficient quantity.

But if the strain that appears during flu season was not the one experts forecast, the vaccines might not work. The appearance of H1N1 swine flu in 2009-2010 took experts by surprise, and the flu was already on its second wave before a vaccine was ready; an estimated 61 million people in the U.S. got swine flu and 12,500 died.

Failures such as that led the U.S. government to award $400 million in start-up funding to three Centres for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing (CIADMs) to boost biodefence and preparedness for pandemic flu.

"There's no way you can produce 50 million doses in 12 weeks" with current production technology, said Giroir. "But plant-based production could."

While one chicken egg can produce one or two doses of flu vaccine, one tobacco plant can produce 50 at a fraction of the cost.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an arm of the Defense Department that funds cutting-edge research, is impressed enough with the potential of tobacco-plant production systems to have awarded multi-million-dollar grants to both Medicago and Caliber, and so far the support has paid off.

In a 2012 DARPA challenge, Medicago, jointly owned by Philip Morris International and Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corp <4508.T>, produced 10 million doses of H1N1 flu vaccine in just a month in tobacco plants inside its sprawling North Carolina greenhouses. In animal tests, the experimental vaccine successfully triggered the production of protective antibodies against H1N1.

HURDLES AHEAD

All the company had to go on was part of the virus's genetic sequence. But while in egg-based production whole flu viruses are injected into the eggs, where they replicate and form the basis for the vaccine, all that's really needed to trigger immunity are the proteins that stud the virus's coat.

Those proteins, called hemagglutinins, are what the immune system attacks. They can be produced by splicing the hemagglutinin gene into almost any kind of cell; Medicago uses harmless bacteria to carry the hemagglutinin genes into the tobacco plant leaves.

Technicians at the greenhouses in North Carolina then soak 36-day-old Nicotiana benthamiana plants (cousins of those used for cigarettes) upside down in a liquid containing the Trojan Horse bacteria, explained chief scientist Marc-Andre D'Aoust. Through a process called vacuum infiltration, air is drawn out of the leaves and they suck up the bacteria.

After growing in special chambers for a week, the leaf cells are churning out hemagglutinins. Extracted, purified, and combined with other bits of the virus, they form the basis for a vaccine.

To succeed, the companies will have to persuade the U.S. Food and Drug Administration not only that the vaccine is safe and effective, as clinical trials are designed to show, but also that the hemagglutinin or other proteins can be extracted from the leaves cleanly and that the largely-untested manufacturing process yields a uniform, reliable product.

Major vaccine makers are cautious about the new technology. “We tend to avoid publicly speculating on what future technologies we might embrace,” said Robert Perry, a Glaxo spokesman said.

"Today, all of our flu-vaccine production is in (chicken) eggs," said Rene Labutat, vice-president of manufacturing for Sanofi. "But we are looking at the recombinant approach, including in mammalian cells, algae, fungi and plants."

(Reporting by Sharon Begley; Editing by Michele Gershberg and John Pickering)

Latest News: Ebola case stokes concerns for Liberians in Texas

DALLAS (AP) — The first case of Ebola diagnosed in the U.S. has been confirmed in a man who recently traveled from Liberia to Dallas, sending chills through the area's West African community whose leaders urged caution to prevent spreading the virus.

The unidentified man was critically ill and has been in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital since Sunday, federal health officials said Tuesday. They would not reveal his nationality or age.

Authorities have begun tracking down family, friends and anyone else who may have come in close contact with him and could be at risk. Officials said there are no other suspected cases in Texas.

At the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Director Tom Frieden said the man left Liberia on Sept. 19, arrived the next day to visit relatives and started feeling ill four or five days later. Frieden said it was not clear how the man became infected.

"I have no doubt that we'll stop this in its tracks in the U.S. But I also have no doubt that — as long as the outbreak continues in Africa — we need to be on our guard," Frieden said, adding that it was possible someone who has had contact with the man could develop Ebola in the coming weeks.

"But there is no doubt in my mind that we will stop it here," he said.

Stanley Gaye, president of the Liberian Community Association of Dallas-Fort Worth, said the 10,000-strong Liberian population in North Texas is skeptical of the CDC's assurances because Ebola has ravaged their country.

"We've been telling people to try to stay away from social gatherings," Gaye said at a community meeting Tuesday evening. Large get-togethers are a prominent part of Liberian culture.

"We need to know who it is so that they (family members) can all go get tested," Gaye told The Associated Press. "If they are aware, they should let us know."

Ebola symptoms can include fever, muscle pain, vomiting and bleeding, and can appear as long as 21 days after exposure to the virus. The disease is not contagious until symptoms begin, and it takes close contact with bodily fluids to spread.

The association's vice president encouraged all who may have come in contact with the virus to visit a doctor and she warned against alarm in the community.

"We don't want to get a panic going," said vice president Roseline Sayon. "We embrace those people who are coming forward. Don't let the stigma keep you from getting tested."

Frieden said he didn't believe anyone on the same flights as the patient was at risk.

"Ebola doesn't spread before someone gets sick and he didn't get sick until four days after he got off the airplane," Frieden said.

Four American aid workers who became infected in West Africa have been flown back to the U.S. for treatment after they became sick. They were treated in special isolation facilities at hospitals in Atlanta and Nebraska. Three have recovered.

A U.S. doctor exposed to the virus in Sierra Leone is under observation in a similar facility at the National Institutes of Health.

The U.S. has only four such isolation units, but Frieden said there was no need to move the latest patient because virtually any hospital can provide the proper care and infection control.

The man, who arrived in the U.S. on Sept. 20, began to develop symptoms last Wednesday and sought care two days later. But he was released. At the time, hospital officials didn't know he had been in West Africa. He returned later as his condition worsened.

Blood tests by Texas health officials and the CDC separately confirmed his Ebola diagnosis on Tuesday.

State health officials described the patient as seriously ill. Goodman said he was able to communicate and was hungry.

The hospital is discussing if experimental treatments would be appropriate, Frieden said.

Since the summer months, U.S. health officials have been preparing for the possibility that an individual traveler could unknowingly arrive with the infection. Health authorities have advised hospitals on how to prevent the virus from spreading within their facilities.

People boarding planes in the outbreak zone are checked for fever, but that does not guarantee that an infected person won't get through.

Liberia is one of the three hardest-hit countries in the epidemic, along with Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Ebola is believed to have sickened more than 6,500 people in West Africa, and more than 3,000 deaths have been linked to the disease, according to the World Health Organization. But even those tolls are probably underestimates, partially because there are not enough labs to test people for Ebola.

Two mobile Ebola labs staffed by American naval researchers arrived this weekend and will be operational this week, according to the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia. The labs will reduce the amount of time it takes to learn if a patient has Ebola from several days to a few hours.

The U.S. military also delivered equipment to build a 25-bed clinic that will be staffed by American health workers and will treat doctors and nurses who have become infected. The U.S. is planning to build 17 other clinics in Liberia and will help train more health workers to staff them.

___

Neergaard reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Nomaan Merchant in Dallas and Emily Schmall in Fort Worth; Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia, Liberia; and Francis Kokutse in Accra, Ghana, contributed to this report.

Latest News: Questions and answers about the US Ebola case

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. health officials have warned for months that someone infected with Ebola could unknowingly carry the virus to this country, and there is word now that it has happened: A traveler in a Dallas hospital became the first patient diagnosed in the U.S.

Texas health officials said there were no other suspected cases in the state, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention immediately sought to calm fears that one case would spread widely.

"Ebola can be scary. But there's all the difference in the world between the U.S. and parts of Africa where Ebola is spreading," CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said, stressing that U.S. health workers know how to control the virus.

"There is no doubt in my mind that we will stop it here," he told a news conference in Atlanta on Tuesday.

Some questions and answers about the case:

Q: Where did the traveler come from?

A: Liberia, the hardest-hit country in the West African epidemic. The patient left on Sept. 19 and arrived in the U.S. on Sept. 20 to visit family. Frieden wouldn't release the man's nationality or other identifying information, and didn't know how he became infected.

Q: When did the patient get sick?

A: Last Wednesday, and he initially sought care two days later. He was released but returned Sunday when his condition worsened and Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital discovered the West Africa connection, admitting him under strict isolation. Tests confirmed Ebola on Tuesday.

Q: How does Ebola spread?

A: Only through close contact with the bodily fluids of someone who has symptoms, such as fever, vomiting and diarrhea. People aren't contagious until symptoms begin. And Ebola cannot spread through the air.

Q: So who's at risk?

A: Texas health officials already have begun tracking down those close contacts, believed to be mostly the relatives the man stayed with. Officials will check them for symptoms every day for 21 days. Frieden said only about a handful of people are believed to have been exposed.

Q: Could Ebola have spread on the airplane?

A: No, Frieden said, because the man wasn't sick then. The CDC said there is no need to monitor anyone else on those flights and didn't reveal flight information.

Q: Will the patient stay in Dallas?

A: Frieden said there's no need to transfer the man to one of those special isolation units that have gotten so much attention for treating four American aid workers who caught Ebola while volunteering in West Africa. Most hospitals can follow the necessary infection control for Ebola, Frieden said, and the Dallas hospital said it was "well prepared" to safely treat this newest case.

As for those other patients, three have recovered; the fourth remains hospitalized in Atlanta.

Q: How will this patient be treated?

A: Good hydration and IV nutrition have proven to be key for those other patients. Frieden said the hospital was discussing experimental treatments. A Tekmira Pharmaceuticals drug called TKM-Ebola and blood transfusions from an Ebola survivor were given to one of the recently infected U.S. aid workers.

Q: Could there be more travelers with Ebola?

A: No one's ruling it out. People boarding planes in the outbreak zone are checked for fever, but that does not guarantee that an infected person won't get through.

Airlines are required to report any deaths on a flight or ill travelers meeting certain criteria to the CDC before arriving in the U.S. If a traveler is infectious or exhibiting symptoms during or after a flight, the CDC will conduct an investigation of exposed travelers and take any necessary public health action.

Q: What if I'm worried about exposure?

A: Call the CDC for more information at 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636).

Latest News: Cameron vow to protect NHS spending
David Cameron working on his conference speechDavid Cameron will say his goal is to help people lead a better life

Funding for the NHS in England will be protected from cuts for five years if the Conservatives win next year's general election, David Cameron is to say.

He will promise real terms increases in health spending in his main speech to the Conservative conference.

It is a repeat of the policy on which he fought the 2010 general election.

Mr Cameron will say it is only possible because of the strength of the economy under his party's stewardship.

And he will ask voters for another five years to finish the job of recovery.

'Strong economy'

Mr Cameron will hail NHS advances in DNA research - making a passing reference to his profoundly disabled son Ivan, who died in 2009 - telling party members: "The next Conservative government will protect the NHS budget and continue to invest more.

"Because we know this truth - something Labour will never acknowledge and we will never forget - you can only have a strong NHS if you have a strong economy."

David and Samantha CameronThis will be David Cameron's ninth conference speech as party leader

NHS spending has risen at just above the rate of inflation since 2010 but critics argue this amounts to a budget freeze because of increased demand for its services and higher pension costs.

The prime minster has also faced criticism from within his own party over the NHS ring-fence as it means a big squeeze on the budgets of other departments.

Mr Cameron will seek to use his final conference speech before the general election to make an emotional appeal to voters and show his party has more to offer them than austerity.

"I love this country - and my goal is this," he will say.

"To make Britain a country that everyone is proud to call home. That doesn't just mean having the fastest-growing economy, or climbing some international league table.

"I didn't come into politics to make the lines in the graphs go in the right direction. I want to help you live a better life."

UKIP defections

The party has unveiled a string of policies this week - on health, housing and pensions - that it hopes will show hard-pressed voters it is on their side.

Chancellor George Osborne also unveiled a two-year freeze on working-age benefits, criticised by some as an attack on the poor.

The conference has also been overshadowed to some extent by rumours about possible further defections after MP Mark Reckless's surprise decision to jump ship to UKIP.

Mr Cameron's task is to banish that from his party's mind and give them a clear message to sell to voters on the doorstep next May.

"If our economic plan for the past four years has been about our country, and saving it from economic ruin, our plan for the next five years will be about you and your family and helping you get on," he will tell the party faithful.

'Pinch of salt'

Aides said Mr Cameron will deliver his speech from behind a lectern with notes - in clear contrast to Labour leader Ed Miliband who last week came in for some flak for forgetting key passages of his speech.

He will also hail the strength of his frontbench team - another area in which the Conservatives feel they have an advantage over Labour.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said Mr Cameron's promises on the NHS "have been shown to be not worth the paper they are written on".

"People will take David Cameron's pre-election pledges on the NHS with a large pinch of salt," he said.

"Last time, he promised 'real-terms increases' but then cut NHS spending in his very first year in office.

"He promised 'no top-down reorganisation' but then brought forward the biggest ever, throwing the NHS into chaos and siphoning £3bn out of front-line care to pay for it.

"He promised no privatisation but has proceeded to put NHS services up for sale without the permission of the public. He promised to protect the NHS but its getting harder to see your GP and waiting times are going up."

Latest News: UK funds Ebola clinics in S Leone
Health workers in protective suits in Sierra LeoneThe Ebola outbreak has claimed more than 3,000 lives in west Africa

Pilot triage clinics are being funded to help tackle the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, UK officials have said.

The idea of the clinics is to test whether people with a fever have Ebola or a less serious bout of malaria.

The clinics will be established in areas where the disease is worst, as the UK pledges another £20m in aid.

More than 3,000 people have been killed by the virus, which causes internal bleeding, across Sierra Leone and its neighbours Guinea and Liberia.

Hospital beds

Officials hope the clinics will encourage people to come for a test rather than stay at home, possibly spreading Ebola to members of their family.

But there is another less positive reason for piloting the clinics.

It has simply not been possible, with the resources available, to establish the thousands of full-treatment centre hospital beds which aid workers have said are necessary across the west African region.

Britain said it would build facilities for 700 new beds in Sierra Leone but the first of these will not be ready for weeks, and the rest may take months.

Whitehall officials said that across the three countries worst affected by Ebola - Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia - it is possible that 1.5 million people could have been infected by the end of the year, with most of them dying.

BBC international development correspondent Mark Doyle says aid workers are battling desperately to try to stop that happening.

It comes as the UK government has pledged another £20m in aid - on top of the £100m already committed - to help health services in Sierra Leone in the fight against Ebola.

The extra money will go towards providing vital medical supplies including chlorine, personal protection equipment such as masks, protection suits and gloves, and essential water and sanitation facilities.

It will also help to deploy medical experts on the ground.

'Unwanted and abandoned'

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said: "Britain is working urgently with Sierra Leone to scale up the international response to the disease.

"Last month Britain pledged to support 700 treatment beds in Sierra Leone, but keeping basic public health services running is vital to halt the spread of the disease.

"Our latest support will allow stretched medical staff and aid agencies to prevent further infection."

More than 160 NHS staff will go to Sierra Leone after an appeal was made for volunteers to help deal with the crisis in the country.

Children's organisation Unicef said many children who had lost their parents to Ebola were being rejected by their relatives because of the fear of infection.

Manuel Fontaine, Unicef regional director for West and Central Africa, said: "Thousands of children are living through the deaths of their mother, father or family members from Ebola.

"These children urgently need special attention and support, yet many of them feel unwanted and even abandoned.

"Orphans are usually taken in by a member of the extended family but in some communities the fear surrounding Ebola is becoming stronger than family ties."

Latest News: First Ebola case diagnosed in the US

Doctors are doing every thing they can to treat the man and prevent further infections, reports Alastair Leithead

The first case of the deadly Ebola virus diagnosed on US soil has been confirmed in Dallas, Texas.

Officials at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital say the unidentified patient is being kept in isolation.

The man is thought to have contracted the virus in Liberia before travelling to the US nearly two weeks ago.

More than 3,000 people have already died of Ebola in West Africa and a small number of US aid workers have recovered after being flown to the US.

"An individual travelling from Liberia has been diagnosed with Ebola in the United States," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Thomas Frieden told reporters on Tuesday.

According to Mr Frieden, the unnamed patient left Liberia on 19 September and arrived in the US the next day to visit relatives, without displaying any symptoms of the virus.

Tom Frieden, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, confirms the US case

Aid worker Nancy Writebol Aid worker Nancy Writebol was flown to Atlanta in early August
Aid worker Nancy Writebol A month after returning to the US, Ms Writebol was well enough to speak to reporters

Symptoms of the virus became apparent on 24 September, and on 28 September he was admitted to a Texas hospital and put in isolation.

A hospital official told reporters on Tuesday the facility already had procedures in place to deal with any such potential cases.

Preliminary information indicates the unnamed patient was not involved in treating Ebola-infected patients while in Liberia.

Bill Gates: "We have got to get medical personnel in there."

Health officials are working to identify all people who came into contact with the unnamed patient while he was infectious.

Those people will then be monitored for 21 days to see if an Ebola-related fever develops.

According to Mr Frieden, it is possible a family member who came in direct contact with the patient may develop Ebola in the coming weeks.

Health workers in protective suits look at an ambulance upon its arrival at Island Hospital in Monrovia on 30 September 2014More than 3,000 people have already died in West Africa
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital says it was prepared for this

But "the bottom line here is I have no doubt that we will control this importation, this case of Ebola, so it does not spread widely in this country," he added. "We will stop it here."

The World Health Organization (WHO) says more than 3,000 people have died of the virus so far, mostly in Liberia.

Earlier on Tuesday, the CDC said the Ebola virus seemed to be contained in Nigeria and Senegal, with no new cases reported there for almost a month.

It is the world's most deadly outbreak of the virus.

line
Ebola virus disease (EVD)
Ebola virus
  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Spread by body fluids, such as blood and saliva
  • Fatality rate can reach 90% - but current outbreak has mortality rate of about 70%
  • Incubation period is two to 21 days
  • There is no proven vaccine or cure
  • Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery
  • Fruit bats, a delicacy for some West Africans, are considered to be virus's natural host

Ebola virus: Busting the myths

Latest News: UN goal on child deaths set to be missed: study

A UN target for slashing infant deaths will be missed, mainly through failures to roll back infectious disease and complications during pregnancy, experts said on Wednesday.

Under the fourth so-called Millennium Development Goal (MDG), all UN members were meant to reduce deaths among children under five by two-thirds by the end of 2015 from 1990 levels.

There were 6.3 million deaths in 2013 worldwide, a near halving of the 1990 toll of 12.7 million.

The decrease shows "countries have made great progress in improving child survival since the turn of the millennium," specialists reported in The Lancet.

"Nevertheless, Millennium Development Goal 4... will probably only be achieved by a few countries."

The study, led by Robert Black of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, delved into causes of under-five deaths in 2013.

Pre-term complications were to blame for 965,000 deaths world-wide, while pneumonia accounted for another 935,000 deaths and complications during childbirth for 662,000. Diarrhoea and malaria were also major killers.

China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan together accounted for about half of all deaths globally in 2013, the paper found.

The research should help frame debate for the Sustainable Development Goals, which are due to be decided by UN leaders in September 2015 as a successor to the MDGs, the authors hope.

On current trends, in 2030 4.4 million children under five will still die, and 60 percent of these deaths will occur in sub-Saharan Africa.

Latest News: Obama's BRAIN initiative gets more than $300 million

President Barack Obama's initiative to study the brain and improve treatment of conditions like Alzheimer's and autism was given a boost Tuesday with the announcement of more than $300 million in funds.

When Obama first established the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) program last year, it had $100 million in initial money for research.

The latest cash injection is coming from the National Institutes of Health, which announced $46 million in new grant awards for fiscal year 2015.

Companies such as GE, Google, GlaxoSmithKline, and Inscopix are investing more than $30 million in research and development investments to support the BRAIN Initiative, a White House statement said.

Foundations, patient advocacy organizations and universities, "are aligning over $240 million of their research efforts with the BRAIN Initiative," it added.

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