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US says Ebola epidemic won't alter Africa summit plans

A man walks by a school in Monrovia on July 31, 2014 which has been closed by the Liberian government to protect students from contracting Ebola
A man walks by a school in Monrovia on July 31, 2014 which has been closed by the Liberian government to protect students from contracting Ebola

The Ebola epidemic that has killed more than 700 people in West Africa in seven months will not affect plans for next week's US-Africa summit, the White House said Thursday.

"At this point, there are no plans in place to alter the schedule in any way," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

US health authorities have concluded "there is no significant risk in the United States from the current Ebola outbreak," he added.

With the epidemic setting off alarms, however, the presidents of both Sierra Leone and Liberia have said they will not attend the Washington summit, which is supposed to bring together nearly 50 African heads of state and government, a first in US history.

"We certainly understand the decision that was made by some of these African leaders to not participate," Earnest said. "They obviously have some very pressing items of business to handle in their own countries."

The US administration has already said the epidemic will be among the subjects discussed during the three-day event starting Monday, which was announced a year ago by President Barack Obama during a tour of Africa.

On Thursday, US health authorities urged Americans to avoid travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the countries most affected by the epidemic.

The Ebola virus, which is spread through contact with bodily fluids, has been lethal in 55 percent of cases in the current outbreak, which began early this year.