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In Sierra Leone, U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power Fights Ebola Stigma

A potential shortage of medical workers because of U.S. Ebola restrictions dominated Ambassador Samantha Power's meetings Monday in Sierra Leone.

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone — It took a plane, a bus, a water taxi and a van to get Samantha Power here to the capital, where the Ebola virus has killed 4,000 people.

Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., arrived Monday on the second leg of her trip to Ebola-stricken West Africa to build international support for fighting the virus. NBC News is traveling exclusively with the ambassador on her trip, which started Sunday in Guinea.

To beat the disease, more foreign medical experts and health-care workers will need to come here to help, but restrictions in the U.S. have made people nervous about coming, and Power is trying to get a handle on how big a shortfall of resources there would be if the U.S. institutes mandatory quarantines.

"The last thing we want is to stigmatize people," Power said. "There is a category of people that we need to be effective in persuading to come, who are kind of hanging back and wondering."

The potential shortage of medical workers dominated Power's 10 meetings and site visits, where she frequently jotted down ideas in her green notebook.

"It's my background as a former journalist," said Power, who wrote for The New Republic before she went into government service. "I can't help myself."

Power next will visit Liberia before heading to Brussels, Belgium. at each stop, she's meeting health care workers, volunteers and public officials. But what she's not doing is coming into contact with any Ebola patients.

Still, she says she'll follow whatever quarantine rules are in place when she gets back to New York. It's uncertainty over what those rules will be that is unsettling Americans who work here now.

"Thanksgiving and Christmas are going to be tough here, because we have people who do want to go home," said Kathleen Fitzgibbon, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy here. "They are going to feel not welcome in their own country."