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This photo provided by the CDC shows an Ebola virus. U.S. health officials are monitoring the Ebola outbreak in Africa but say the risk of the deadly germ spreading to the United States is remote. / AP/CDC

The Peace Corps announced Wednesday that it was temporarily withdrawing its 340 volunteers in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone after two workers were exposed to the Ebola virus.

A spokeswoman told CNN and CBS News that the pair were being isolated after coming in contact with an infected patient who later died. The two have not exhibited symptoms, however, and will be sent back the United States after doctors clear them.

The Peace Corps did not indicate when the volunteers might return to West Africa, where the growing outbreak is centered.

"The agency has been and will continue to closely monitor the outbreak of the virus in collaboration with leading experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of State," according to a statement.

Health officials in the United Kingdom and Hong Kong, fearing that the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa could go global, have tested at least two airline passengers who have shown symptoms of the disease.

The outbreak - the largest in history - has spread across Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone and killed at least 672 people, according to the World Health Organization. The disease has no vaccine and no specific treatment. It has a fatality rate of at least 60%.

In the U.K., the Department of Health confirmed Wednesday that a man who flew into Birmingham airport recently from Nigeria via Paris was clear of the virus despite saying he felt feverish.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, who chaired an emergency meeting Wednesday on Ebola with health experts, scientists and other ministers, said "the issue is about the possibility of somebody who has contracted the disease in Africa getting sick here."

"It is not about the disease spreading in the UK because frankly we have different standards of infection control procedure that would make that most unlikely," he told reporters, according to the BBC.

In Hong Kong, a woman with suspected Ebola symptoms had been isolated for treatment in the city, reported China's CCTV news. The woman who had been on vacation in Kenya subsequently tested negative for the disease.

In Charlotte, N.C, the main corridor of the emergency department at Carolinas Medical Center was cordoned off as a precaution early Wednesday after a patient who had traveled to Africa arrived late Tuesday. The patient, who had returned from an unidentified country "known for high risk of infectious diseases," was found to not have Ebola and was discharged, the hospital said.

Two American medical missionaries working with Ebola patients in Liberia have been diagnosed with the virus.

Kent Brantly, 33, is medical director of the Ebola care center run by Samaritan's Purse on the outskirts of the Liberian capital of Monrovia, and Nancy Writebol had been disinfecting doctors and nurses working with Ebola patients.

A statement by the North Carolina-based group said both showed "slight improvement" in the past 24 hours but remain in serious condition.

The first American fatality from this outbreak was Patrick Sawyer, a 40-year-old consultant with the Liberian Ministry of Finance, who collapsed upon arrival in Lagos, Nigeria, last week and died Friday in a hospital while under quarantine.

His wife, Decontee Sawyer, who lives in Coons Rapid, Minn., said her husband had been scheduled to fly to Minneapolis on Aug. 16 to attend a birthday party for two of their children. "He could have brought Ebola here," she told The Daily Beast on Tuesday.

In Sierra Leone, Sheik Umar Khan, the doctor leading the fighting against the Ebola outbreak in that country, died from the virus on Tuesday, the country's chief medical officer said, the Daily Mail reports.

Experts say that in its earliest stages symptoms of Ebola include fever, aches and a sore throat.

WHO says the risk of travelers contracting Ebola is considered low because it requires direct contact with bodily fluids or secretions such as urine, blood, sweat or saliva.

Ebola can't be spread like flu through casual contact or breathing in the same air.

According to WHO, Ebola first appeared in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks, in Nzara, Sudan, and in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo. The latter was in a village situated near the Ebola River, from which the disease takes its name.

Contributing: Associated Press; Michael Winter, USA TODAY.

Follow Doug Stanglin on Twitter: @dstanglin



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: Peace Corps pulls volunteers over Ebola outbreak

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