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THE SITUATION ROOM
New Ebola Guidelines; Hostage Shocker; New Video of ISIS Hostage; U.S. Vet in Ground War Against ISIS; Flu Poses Greater Threat Than Ebola; New CNN Poll: Obama Unpopular, Voters Angry
Aired October 27, 2014 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news: new Ebola guidelines. The Centers for Disease Control moves to end the controversy over patchwork quarantine rules that have sparked a very public battle involving the White House, the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, and a nurse who says her rights were violated.
Viral threat. Global health officials say there's another virus that could kill many more people in the United States than Ebola in the coming months. So what has so many experts so worried right now?
Hostage shocker. An ISIS captive turns up in a surprise location in a new propaganda video. What message are the terrorists making him send to the West?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. New Ebola guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Officials there are now recommending voluntary home quarantine for health care workers and others returning from the so-called Ebola hot zone in West Africa who are considered at high risk for exposure.
That comes as the Pentagon quarantines almost a dozen U.S. military personnel who may have been exposed. And we have just received Ebola test results and they are negative, repeat, negative for a 5-year-old boy who recently visited West Africa and is now hospitalized in a New York City hospital with Ebola symptoms.
We have our correspondents, our guests, CNN's global resources on the story this hour.
Let's begin with CNN's Miguel Marquez. He's over at New York's Bellevue Hospital with the good news on that 5-year-old little boy -- Miguel.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there is good news to report. That 5-year-old is negative for Ebola in initial tests, says the hospital. He and his mother will remain in isolation here at Bellevue until they can do more tests and ensure in the days ahead that he is truly Ebola free. This is a young man who was brought in the hospital after falling sick
Sunday. He got in from Guinea after spending a month in Guinea. On Saturday, he got into New York, became sick on Sunday and then came to the hospital here. They were not sure they were going to conduct a blood test on him because he is so young but they ended up doing it anyway.
Officials said for some time though in all of this that it didn't seem consistent with Ebola because it appeared he had gotten sick, the vomiting and the diarrhea and the like before the fever came on, that fever came on later. That's not quite consistent with the way Ebola works. In any event, they brought him here, they tested him. The first round is negative, but there are more rounds to come. So we will find out in the days ahead if he and his mother can go home -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What's the latest, Miguel, on the confirmed Ebola patient over at Bellevue Hospital, Dr. Spencer?
MARQUEZ: Dr. Craig Spencer is also here at Bellevue. He remains in serious but stable condition. His girlfriend or his fiancee who was here with him for a few days has been allowed to return home in order to stay in isolation and quarantine there as well his two friends he had substantial contact with.
He seems to be doing as well as he can. He even spoke briefly to "The New York Times" at one point over the weekend. He seems to be doing as well as he possibly can. Some of those worse symptoms though appear to be setting in. He also has had a plasma transfusion from Dr. Nancy Writebol, who was a survivor of Ebola. It sounds like he took to that, so it's hoped he will recover fully -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Let us hope. Certainly, that would be excellent news.
Thanks very much, Miguel, for that.
Let's bring in our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, and she's also in New York.
So first of all, Elizabeth, what are you learning about these new CDC guidelines that were announced just a few hours ago?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, they really are in great contrast to what's being done in New York and New Jersey. The CDC does not recommend mandatory quarantine for all returning health care workers.
For some high-risk health care workers, like for example one that maybe got a needle stick while taking care of an Ebola patient, then quarantine, it appears they would want to go that way. However, for just any other health care worker, as they were using protective equipment, which of course they're using, then they recommend intensive monitoring.
So for getting a phone call or a visit from a local health official, taking their temperature, asking how are you feeling, really having a conversation with these returning health care workers. That might have prevented Dr. Spencer from going out and about. He was feeling sluggish, was not feeling great, but still he went bowling and still he went to a restaurant. It doesn't appear he put anyone in danger.
In fact, doctors are quite sure he didn't, but still the public gets a little scared. So hopefully under these new rules, health officials will say you're not feeling great, stay at home.
BLITZER: Are these guidelines that the CDC put out today, are they mandatory or can states, local jurisdictions ignore them if they want?
COHEN: They can ignore them, they can do whatever they want. The CDC doesn't tell anyone in this situation what to do.
They make guidelines. They make recommendations. Usually, Wolf, people listen to the CDC guidelines. But here we know that several states are not listening. They want to have that mandatory quarantine.
BLITZER: Elizabeth, I want you to stand by. We have more questions but there's other news we're following related to this.
Almost a dozen U.S. troops that were in the Ebola hot zone in West Africa, they are now in quarantine. Hundreds more can be isolated as the Pentagon sends more American forces over to West Africa to try to fight Ebola.
Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. She's working this part of the story.
What are you learning over there, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, none of the troops have symptoms right now. They have no known exposure to Ebola. The Pentagon is calling it enhanced monitoring. You and I might call it a quarantine.
STARR (voice-over): U.S. Army Major General Darryl Williams ended his command of the U.S. military operation in West Africa and flew right into quarantine.
Williams and his military team show no symptoms of Ebola. But the Army ordered the 21-day quarantine for them and dozens of others flying out of West Africa after they worked to set up operations to fight Ebola for the last 30 days. The timing could not be politically worse. The administration doesn't want quarantines.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: You have got to make your decisions and your policy based on the scientific data.
And the scientific data and the evidence tells us that people who are not ill, who don't have symptoms, who -- with whom you don't come into contact with body fluids, they are not a threat. STARR: But, for troops, there are other considerations.
DR. FRANK ESPER, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST: Infections go through the military population than the civilian population. Everyone's living in very close quarters. They are working in very close quarters. It's been well-shown how even mild infections within a military unit can lead to very debilitating and interruption of their capabilities.
STARR: Now, the Joint Chiefs of Staff is considering recommending an across-the-board quarantine for nearly 900 troops already there, a number that could grow to 4,000.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have ensured the highest medical and safety protocols are in place before, during and after deployment.
STARR: A full military quarantine would be a stunning reversal. In an October 10th memo, the Pentagon said, as long as troops show no symptoms, "They may return to work and routine daily activities with family members."
As the administration grapples with the issue of quarantines, U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power is about to return from West Africa. The State Department says she will obey any state health laws.
STARR: Now, this situation is so sensitive. The question of whether or not to put all military members returning from West Africa in quarantine, it will now be Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that makes the final decision on how to proceed -- Wolf.
BLITZER: There could potentially, as you point out, be 4,000 U.S. troops on the ground in West Africa trying to deal with this crisis, is that right?
STARR: That's right, Wolf. The Pentagon has authorized up to 4,000 troops to go on this mission in West Africa. Right now, they're approaching 900 on the ground.
BLITZER: Barbara, let's hope they're all OK. Barbara Starr is over at the Pentagon.
Let's dig deeper.
Joining us right now, Dr. Seema Yasmin. She's a former CDC disease detective who now writes for "The Dallas Morning News" and also joining us, Gavin Macgregor-Skinner, assistant professor at Penn State University's Department of Health Sciences. He's an expert on public health preparedness. Elizabeth Cohen, our senior medical correspondent, is still with us as well.
Seema, let me start with you.
Governor Christie of New Jersey, he kept saying that Kaci Hickox, the nurse who had just come back from West Africa, she was finally released after being quarantined over there in Newark, New Jersey, because she hadn't exhibited any symptoms for 24 hours. But she says she never really exhibited symptoms. You know this nurse. What is your response to this uproar that developed?
DR. SEEMA YASMIN, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS, DALLAS: So she insisted that she didn't have any symptoms and she felt physically well, Wolf.
She said she was emotionally distraught and exhausted and she was very upset actually that the governor made that comment because it frightened her mother and her family. At a time that she was feeling well, they were concerned that perhaps she was symptomatic and she was not. It does give a message if we're quarantining health care workers that perhaps they are a threat to the public health.
In this instance, we know the nurse did not have any symptoms, therefore she was not a threat to the public health. In fact, she was trying to protect the public health by fighting the epidemic in West Africa.
BLITZER: He says, the governor, Seema, that when they took that thermometer and they sort of pointed it at her forehead, she had a 101 temperature. Eventually, when she came to the hospital she had a normal temperature, 98.6 or whatever, and she was fine.
How reliable are those handheld devices that you point at the forehead and get the temperature?
YASMIN: There is some data that, Wolf, shows there's not as accurate and oral thermometers.
What the nurse said that initially when her forehead temperature was taken and it was normal. Then it was taken again maybe three or four hours later, after she had been kept waiting and after much information was not given to her, so she was visibly upset and she was flushed.
And that is when it gave that elevated reading and she was taken to the hospital. What she told me is that the doctors at the hospital were confused because when they took her temperature using an oral thermometer, it was normal. They took it again instantly using the forehead thermometer and it came back as higher.
They said to her we don't think you have a fever, but the temperature is coming back as high, probably because we're using a forehead thermometer scanner and because you're upset and your face is flush.
BLITZER: The governor of New Jersey, Gavin, he says they were acting out of an abundance of caution, especially in the aftermath of Dr. Spencer coming back from West Africa and really having Ebola. He's now at Bellevue Hospital.
DR. GAVIN MACGREGOR-SKINNER, PENN STATE UNIVERSITY: The approach we take here with any highly infectious disease, Wolf, is called bio-risk management. That's the systems approach.
In that, we do risk assessments. We do these proper risk assessments. We're very stringent and follow certain protocols and we evaluate what are the risks. And again as we're trying to protect all of the Americans, the whole American population at the moment, we have got to go back to West Africa and focus on where the epidemic is right now and put as many people into West Africa as we can.
BLITZER: When they come out of West Africa, do they need to go into quarantine, those who have dealt directly with Ebola patients?
MACGREGOR-SKINNER: We have been dealing with Ebola now for 38 years. Over 25 outbreaks. And again within the health care profession, we have always put in strict protocols for controlled movement. We have developed peer-to-peer networks, so we take our temperature, we talk to each other on a daily basis.
We have these cell phones where we can videoconferencing, text messaging. Mandatory quarantining, being locked at home, no, we don't need that. No symptoms, is no Ebola, means no quarantine.
BLITZER: Elizabeth Cohen, you studied those thermometers they use at the airports. They point them at the forehead. You get a temperature reading. How reliable are these devices?
COHEN: You know what, Wolf, I was speaking with a doctor, a professor at the University of Texas who actually studied these. He said look, they are just not as reliable as an oral thermometer.
If you're upset, you know when you get upset, your face gets flush. That's blood going to your face, so your skin is going to be hot. He thinks that he thinks that's why Kaci Hickox had that one high reading that he said you do not send someone to the hospital based on a high thermal forehead thermometer.
Instead, you take an oral temperature. You don't send someone to the hospital based on what one of those airport thermometers says. He was very surprised that New Jersey sent her to the hospital based on that one high reading. It wasn't a true reflection of her temperature and every other reading was normal.
BLITZER: It underscores the panic though that is out there, Elizabeth, doesn't it?
You have to wonder. When Kaci Hickox landed in Newark, that new policy had just been put into effect. You have to wonder were they almost looking for an excuse to isolate her? They kept her for seven hours. She kept saying she was fine. She said when they got that one high reading, that they looked kind of smug and said see, you do have a fever. You have to wonder what is going on here and if there were any sort of political reasons why this was done and not medical reasons.
BLITZER: Seema, how much of an impact will this have on physicians, nurse, others who want to go to West Africa and help these people? Because that's where the real Ebola crisis is. YASMIN: We're already hearing, Wolf, from folks that are deployed
right now in West Africa that they're concerned about how they will be treated when they return home, especially if they're coming back to New Jersey or to Florida or Illinois. They're really concerned how long they will be treated and how long they will be separated from their families.
We're also hearing from folks right here in the U.S. who want to serve their country and who want to protect the public health of Americans by going to West Africa. They're not so sure now whether they will deploy, Wolf, because again they're worried how they will be treated. This could really hamper our efforts to stop the outbreak in West Africa. We know as long as there are cases and as long as there is spread in West Africa, we're likely to see more imported cases in the U.S. and in other parts of the world.
BLITZER: It's clearly spreading in West Africa even as we speak right now.
I want all of you to stand by. We have much more to report and much more to discuss. We will resume our coverage right after this.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. New quarantine Ebola guidelines just issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in an effort to try to standardize hastily constructed, sometimes conflicted rules.
We're back with Dr. Seema Yasmin. She's a former CDC disease detective who now writes for "The Dallas Morning News" and Gavin Macgregor-Skinner, assistant professor at Penn State University's Department of Health Sciences. He's an expert on public health preparedness, and our own senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen.
That little 5-year-old boy, Seema, who tested negative in a statement released by the New York City Department of Health, they said the test is negative. Out of an abundance of caution, further negative Ebola tests are required on subsequent days to ensure the patient is clear. The patient will also be tested for common respiratory viruses. The patient will remain in isolation until all test results have returned.
In other words, is it possible, even though this initial test was negative, he still might be positive down the road? Is that what they're suggesting in this statement?
YASMIN: It's possible, but highly unlikely.
I have spoken to some pediatricians about today and they said with this clinical history, it sounds like so many other illnesses that 5- year-olds typically get. He's unwell, he's vomiting, it could be a whole myriad of other conditions. It's really unlikely to Ebola because of that clinical history and now it's even more unlikely to be Ebola, given this one negative test. BLITZER: As you know, Gavin, Dr. Craig Spencer, the physician,
Doctors Without Borders back, he's got Ebola, he's at Bellevue Hospital right now. We hope he will be fear. But he came back with Ebola. He's got it. Do we have any idea how he got it?
MACGREGOR-SKINNER: No, we haven't.
I'm sure people have interviewed him and may have some idea, but we haven't heard at all how he might have gotten Ebola. Again, the two nurses from Dallas, we're not sure as well. What we have got to take is we reverse the paradigm and look at the lessons learned.
We know that Mr. Duncan, who passed away, his family didn't get it. Let's look at what the lesson learned is there. Let's look at the lessons learned from Dallas. Let's look at the lessons learned from all from West Africa. We have many people in West Africa now. The systems we train, I'm training in hospitals right now -- the management, the supervision, the protocols are exactly the same in U.S. hospitals as what we would use in Africa. Exactly the same. And it's -- where were those gaps?
BLITZER: Those protocols were not in existence in Dallas, though.
MACGREGOR-SKINNER: Well, I don't know.
BLITZER: Because they had some of the skin on the neck that wasn't covered in Dallas and those nurses came down with Ebola after treating Mr. Duncan.
MACGREGOR-SKINNER: And that comes back to our management, our supervision and our implementation. And that's what is really critical. The CDC puts out the guidelines as paper-based documents.
What the next critical step is how, how to make that happen. How to implement. That's the big gap we're missing both in West Africa and also here in the U.S. But, again, organizations are out in West Africa with years of experience. They're putting those in place the same as we should be doing here in the U.S.
BLITZER: I have heard, Elizabeth, and you're there in New York, so you know more about this than I do, some of the nurses, health care workers, maybe even some of the physicians at Bellevue Hospital, they are worried right now about this Ebola patient. They're worried. They're concerned. They don't necessarily have the training you need.
I asked Dr. Fauci if maybe this doctor should have been sent to NIH for treatment where they do have apparently better experience in dealing with these kind of cases. What are you hearing in New York?
COHEN: You know, these workers haven't come out and said anything publicly that I know of.
I do know the mayor, Mayor de Blasio, and his wife visited them yesterday and he said they were all devoted to this, that they were dedicated to this. It seems like they want to be doing this. Now, Bellevue, it is not like Texas Presbyterian. They were caught completely unaware, they had done no Ebola training. Here at Bellevue, they have been doing months of training for Ebola.
So they sort of knew what they were getting into a lot more than the folks in Dallas.
BLITZER: Your analysis, Seema. You have studied this closely. Should we be bracing for more Ebola cases in the United States?
YASMIN: The data shows at the moment that if the outbreak continues in West Africa, we could see as many as three to eight cases of Ebola every single month. So that's why it's absolutely key that brave, compassionate health care workers continue to go to West Africa and stop the outbreak there. That keeps Americans healthy right here.
BLITZER: Gavin, you were there in West Africa trying to deal with this Ebola crisis in August and September. How did it go?
MACGREGOR-SKINNER: It's very challenging. Physically, it's very draining. Mentally, we have nightmares at night.
We have to develop the buddy system, the peer-to-peer network. We talk about this all the time. Again, when accidents happen, let me get this straight, Wolf. Ebola patients have lots of diarrhea and lots of vomiting, projectile vomiting. I have been covered in vomit.
BLITZER: From an Ebola patient?
MACGREGOR-SKINNER: From an Ebola patient.
BLITZER: But you were protected.
MACGREGOR-SKINNER: I was protected, just like people in the U.S. hospitals, as you see on West Africa, completely protected. But it was the supervision that I had.
BLITZER: What does that mean, the supervision?
MACGREGOR-SKINNER: The person I was working with, my buddy, said stop, don't move. I stopped. We went through slowly. We decontaminated. We took the PPE off slowly. Every time we got a bit of Ebola vomit or diarrhea on the hand, we washed off with soap and water. We made sure it didn't get into our eyes, nose and mouth.
BLITZER: But your hands were covered.
MACGREGOR-SKINNER: My hands -- but as I took it off, we were completely in vomit and diarrhea. You do get things on your hands. Keep them away from your eyes, your nose and your mouth and you won't get Ebola.
BLITZER: But if you get Ebola fluid on your skin, on your hands, that's not necessarily going to give you Ebola. MACGREGOR-SKINNER: You will not get Ebola. You wash it off with soap and water.
BLITZER: Thanks for going over there. You're a courageous guy indeed. Gavin Macgregor-Skinner, appreciate your joining us today. Seema Yasmin, thanks as always for joining us. Elizabeth Cohen, you have no choice. You have to join us. You're on senior medical correspondent.
Hey, guys, thanks very, very much.
Breaking news coming up next. A new ISIS propaganda video shows a Western captive in a surprising location. We have details of the message he's being forced to send.
Plus, an American veteran fighting ISIS on the battlefields of Syria. He shares his remarkable story exclusively with CNN.
BLITZER: We're getting some breaking news here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
There's new video of an ISIS hostage, this time in a surprising location, forced to send the terrorist propaganda messages to the West.
Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is working the story for us.
Tell us what's going on, Jim.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's another alarming video from ISIS. He's one of ISIS' last Western hostages.
And he appears once again in his new role, almost certainly coerced, as a kind of spokesman for the group. And he makes a bold claim that ISIS is actually winning in Kobani.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): British hostage John Cantlie is seen in the heart of the hotly contested town of Kobani, within sight, he claims, of Turkey.
JOHN CANTLIE, HOSTAGE OF ISIS: Hello. I'm John Cantlie. And, today, we're in the city of Kobani on the Syrian-Turkish border. That is
SCIUTTO: -- claim that ISIS is actually winning in Kobani.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): British hostage John Cantlie is seen in the heart of the hotly contested town of Kobani, within sight, he claims, of Turkey.
JOHN CANTLIE, BRITISH HOSTAGE: Hello, I'm John Cantlie. And today we're in the city of Kobani on the Syrian-Turkish border. That is, in fact, Turkey right behind me.
SCIUTTO: Almost certainly under duress, he refutes western accounts of the battle there, saying Kobani remains mostly under the control of ISIS, not Kurdish rebels.
CANTLIE: There are no YPG, PKK or Peshmerga in sight. Just a large number of Islamic state Mujahidin, and they are definitely not on the run.
SCIUTTO: U.S. officials dismissed the video as just another product of ISIS's aggressive propaganda machine.
And elsewhere in Iraq and Syria, ISIS appears to have a dangerous new weapon. Here, an ISIS militant is shown firing at an Iraqi helicopter with a shoulder-fired missile, identified by experts at Jane's Defence as a Chinese-made FN-6.
The next frame shows what ISIS claims was the result: the twisted wreckage of the downed chopper. With U.S. aircraft, including Apache helicopters and AC-130 gunships now in action over Iraq, so-called MANPADs or man-portable air defense systems are a grave and growing concern.
JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: That's clearly significant potential threat to aviation operating in Iraq and Syrian airspace due to ongoing fighting. But of particular concern is our advanced conventional weapons like MANPADs.
SCIUTTO: U.S. officials have not confirmed that ISIS has obtained the weapons, but there are fears they captured them from retreating Iraqi forces or bought them from other Syrian rebel groups.
MANPADs like the FN-6 can strike aircraft flying at altitudes up to 12,500 feet, making both Apaches and AC-130s vulnerable, though not higher flying combat aircraft, such as FA-18s or B-1B's or commercial aircraft at cruising altitude.
MANPADs are a threat, however, to civilian or military aircraft on takeoff and landing. A threat that has thrown as ISIS forces have moved within several miles of Baghdad International Airport.
Former U.S. commander General Mark Hertling says ISIS is still not close enough to pose the most severe threat.
GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: So you've got to be within a couple of miles to take a good shot. And so far they haven't encroached that closely to the western side of the airport.
SCIUTTO: ISIS militants are now sharing missile know-how far and wide, even posting a manual on the best ways to down an Apache on the Internet, including recommended techniques, such as firing from elevated areas.
U.S. pilots, however, have their own technique. They can alternate flight paths to prevent ISIS fighters from setting up firing positions along the way.
And Wolf, as you and I have talked about, they also have more advanced Apache helicopters that can fire from distance, scan (ph) off missiles, perhaps, behind a building or a mountain, to make them less vulnerable, but not entirely unvulnerable (sic) to this kind of threat.
BLITZER: If they get -- if they get closer and closer to Baghdad International Airport, the planes will have to do that little spiral landing, because they're afraid they're going to be knocked out of the sky.
SCIUTTO: Absolutely. And as Iraqi forces increasingly confront ISIS forces, particularly in Fallujah, et cetera, they've needed close air support from American aircraft, like Apaches and AC-130s. They're low fliers. Whatever measures they take, they're still vulnerable to this kind of weapon.
BLITZER: Jim Sciutto with that report. Thanks very much.
An American Army veteran fighting ISIS forces on the battlefield of Syria. CNN senior international correspondent Ivan Watson made a secret trip inside Syria, talked to this American fighter. Ivan is joining us now from Dohuk (ph) in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq.
Ivan, glad you're out of there safe and sound. You're a courageous journalist, as all of our viewers know. So what did you see? Tell our viewers.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there's been so much attention to westerners who have joined the ranks of ISIS. But the fact is, is that there have also been foreigners who have volunteered to join some of the other factions in Syria, fighting in that terrible civil war.
We crossed into Kurdish-controlled northern Syria to meet one American who has joined a Kurdish militia there.
WATSON (voice-over): Armed men are a common sight here in Kurdish- controlled northern Syria, a country embroiled in a vicious civil war. But one of the gunman in this truck is not like the others.
(on camera): How are people reacting to you when they see you and realize that you're from the U.S.?
JORDAN MATSON, FIGHTING AGAINST ISIS: They ask me if I'll come over for dinner and stay the night at their house.
WATSON: Jordan Matson is a 28-year-old former U.S. Army soldier from Sturdivant, Wisconsin.
MATSON: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) I'm good.
WATSON: For the last month, he's also been a volunteer fighter in the Kurdish militia known here as the YPG.
MATSON: I got in contact with the YPG on Facebook, and I prayed about it, and for probably a month or two, and you know, really soul searched and said, "Is this what I want to do?" And eventually, you know, decided to do it.
WATSON: During his two years in the Army, Matson never once saw combat or deployment overseas. But soon after arriving here in Syria, he says he ended up in a battle against ISIS.
MATSON: The second day in, I got hit by a mortar in a fight.
WATSON: While recovering from shrapnel wounds, Matson went to work online, recruiting more foreigners to help the YPG fight against ISIS.
MATSON: I've had ex-military come from eastern Europe, western Europe, Canada, the United States, Australia. You name it, they've been asking. You know, ISIS has threatened all of these countries that I've named to push their agenda in those nations. And the veterans of those nations who love their countries don't want to sit by while this is happening.
WATSON: Back home in Wisconsin, he used to work in a food packing company.
MATSON: Other than that, we just hang out in here.
WATSON: Now he lives in places like this former restaurant, converted into a militia camp.
(on camera): What are the pictures?
MATSON: These are all men that have died fighting against ISIS.
WATSON (voice-over): The YPG are very lightly armed guerrillas.
(on camera): Is this even a flak jacket?
MATSON: No, this is just a vest to carry ammunition.
WATSON: So basically, people are running into battle without even any armor? MATSON: Yes.
WATSON: And wearing sneakers half the time?
MATSON: Yes, combat Adidas.
WATSON (voice-over): U.S. law enforcement officials say it's illegal for an American to join a Syrian militia. But Matson says being here, fighting ISIS alongside the Kurds, is a dream come true.
(on camera): You could not be further from home right now.
MATSON: Yes, I guess this is the other side of the world.
All my life I just wanted to be a soldier, I guess, growing up. And so this -- this fits well over here. I'm at peace being here.
WATSON: At peace in a civil war.
Wolf, Matson says that there are at least three other Americans that are fighting alongside of that Kurdish YPG militia.
And some of this is to be expected, frankly. Because every conflict I've ever covered has attracted a sometimes bizarre combination of foreign adventurers and mercenaries and idealists, and sometimes, frankly, misfits. The Syrian civil war is no exception.
BLITZER: Does this young man, Ivan, realize potentially he could face criminal charges when he comes back to the United States?
WATSON: I asked him that. And he said, you know what? If -- if the U.S. does truly consider what he's doing to be illegal, then they would probably shut down his Facebook page and stop his recruiting efforts. That was -- that was his justification.
I did also ask him, you know, are there some parallels between guys like you who come to join this Kurdish militia, and other foreigners who have come to join ISIS? These are -- these are two militias fighting groups. They have very different ideologies. They carry out -- they have very different strategies and uses of violence on the battlefield, but it's still foreigners flocking to basically fighting groups.
You know, and he argued that he was there to help protect the Kurds and fight against ISIS. He didn't see any parallel at all between himself and, say, another American who might go and try to join ISIS and fight in a foreign country, similarly.
BLITZER: Thanks for that report, Ivan. Excellent, excellent work, as usual.
Ivan Watson, he's back in Iraq right now, but he was in Syria.
Let's get more now with our CNN national security analyst, Peter Bergen; and CNN counterterrorism analyst, the former CIA counterterrorism official, Philip Mudd.
Peter, I want to get back to that new ISIS video that we saw a little while ago with that British journalist, John Cantlie, who's being held. He's a captive; he's a hostage, if you will. Obviously, what he was saying there in Kobani clearly under distress. But it was a very sophisticated video, if you look at it.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, it seemed almost like a standup that a CNN correspondent would do in a -- some foreign city. And I think it was designed to show that he's relaxed, and that what he's saying is accurate. But I mean, clearly he's under duress.
BLITZER: What do you think, Phil? They released that video showing his location there in Kobani. And the assessment is maybe he was there a week or so ago when they did this video.
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I don't think these videos are always a sign of strength. When I used to watch the al Qaeda videos and watching this one today, sometimes I think they signal us about weakness.
In this case, I think there are two weaknesses that ISIS is showing. The first is, they're watching the same media we watch and seeing that their push for Kobani is not going very well. This is a message to sort of respond to what they view as western media, portraying them as losing in Kobani. They think they need to respond.
The second is, if you watch the jihadi websites and extremist websites, Muslim websites, in addition, about those beheading videos of other hostages, the response is almost universally negative. This may be a sign to say, "Hey, we still believe beheadings are OK, but we're showing you that there's something else we're going to do with these hostages beyond beheading."
BLITZER: Do you accept this theory out there, at least by some, Phil, that maybe John Cantlie is being used as a human shield, telling the West, you can't bomb in these areas in Kobani, because if you do, you might kill this British citizen?
MUDD: No, I don't think that's the case. I could easily see ISIS using civilians out there, women and children in the event of street fighting, for example. But I think this is purely a propaganda play. And I think they're trying to reach not only us, but people in western Europe and who are watching media that say ISIS is not on the same role they were a couple weeks ago, partly as a result of U.S. airstrikes.
BLITZER: What we're showing our viewers, Peter, is this drone video. ISIS apparently has a drone, and they can fly that drone over Kobani. And you can see the city right there. It's a sophisticated technique that they clearly have right now.
Let's talk a little bit about this American in Ivan Watson's piece who goes from Wisconsin, former U.S. soldier, goes over there and starts fighting with this Kurdish group, the YPG. The YPG, according to U.S. officials, as you know, sort of an offshoot of the PKK, which the State Department regards as a terrorist organization. That's why they say you can't go fight for these various militias.
What's going on here? Could the U.S. need some of these militias to help defeat ISIS?
BERGEN: True, and it gets to the complexity of what's going on in that part of the world, but you know, the Neutrality Act, which has been on the books since the late 18th Century for a good reason, which was that the American citizens aren't supposed to just go and fight in wars that they just decide to fight in.
Now, it's not always enforced. And leaving aside the whole question of whether, you know, he's involved in some terrorist organization. You know, he could come back and face charges under the Neutrality Act, and you know, it would be relatively easy to show, yes. Yes, he did fight with sort of another power, and that's not something we want to encourage.
BLITZER: But you know, Phil, the U.S. is now arming these various Kurdish militias, including this YPG group where this American soldier from Wisconsin is now serving. So it does get, as Peter says, it gets pretty murky out there.
MUDD: I don't think it gets murky in the case of this American. I hope he's prosecuted. If he ever persuades a kid from America to go over there who otherwise wouldn't have gone, and that kid loses his head, this kid ought to pay. That is irresponsible.
But more broadly on the issue of arming Kurds, I think in the complex environment we're living in, Peter is right: this is really a confusing one. You've got ISIS; you've got other al Qaeda affiliates. Syrian Kurds, Iraqi Kurds. You've got to have simplicity of strategy at the leadership level: the White House, the CIA, the Pentagon.
We have a strategic goal here. That is to aid groups that will take weapons and training from us and go after ISIS. YPG is a good example of that. I think we can get around the legal issues. I think it's a good idea to give them weapons.
BLITZER: I think they are. The U.S. is giving the YPG weapons, not the PKK. But that would make the Turks crazy if the U.S. were to do that. But that's another matter which we won't have time to discuss right now.
Philip Mudd, thanks very much.
Peter Bergen, thanks to you, as well.
Just ahead, the growing concern over a virus that could spark a pandemic, killing many more people than Ebola. Global health officials are bracing for it. We'll explain what's going on.
BLITZER: The Ebola virus is certainly making global headlines, but health officials around the world are also bracing for a virus that kills far more people with a greater chance of sparking a pandemic. We're talking about influenza.
CNN's Tom Foreman is taking a closer look at this very real flu threat that is out there.
What are you learning?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, as fearsome as Ebola is, the simple truth is not one U.S. citizen has died from Ebola at this point. And yet, this other infectious disease has probably killed around 750,000 Americans over the past couple of decades, and many people just sort of shrug when you mention it.
FOREMAN (voice-over): It does not spur debates about whether you'll be infected while flying, or make doctors don hazmat suits, or cause local governments to impose quarantines. But between 5 percent and 20 percent of the U.S. population between now and February will likely come down with the flu. Though most people will only suffer fever, aches or chills. But the very young, the very old or those already sick, the flu can be fatal.
DR. JESSE GOODMAN, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: The defenses are weakened by the flu virus and a bacteria can come in and set up shop in the lungs. So, when that happens, your lungs are compromised. You might have a very bad cough. You might even become unable to breathe without assistance.
FOREMAN: Unlike Ebola, which is hard to get, the flu is easily transmitted by casual contact -- on public transit and restaurants, any public event. And flu pandemics have ravaged the world. In 1918, the Spanish flu killed an estimated 30 million to 50 million people, perhaps many millions more.
Still, less than half of the U.S. population receives a flu shot. So, the CDC says in any given year, 200,000 people will get a severe case of the flu, so severe they'll wind up in the hospital. And on average, 36,000 will die.
FOREMAN: Statistically, Ebola is so rare in this country, you are thousands of time more likely to be killed by a dog attack, lightning or by swarming bees than you are to catch Ebola.
So, yes, something as common and deadly as the flu is a much, much bigger threat to your survival -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Most doctors, almost all doctors recommend flu shots. Not too late so go ahead and get a flu shot right now. Tom Foreman, thanks very much.
Just ahead: isolation, quarantine and new test results. We're going to have much more on the Ebola crisis. That's coming up.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Just a week to go until the midterm elections, a new CNN/Opinion Research poll shows Democratic candidates' biggest problem may be -- may be President Obama himself. The poll shows the president remains unpopular. His approval ratings stuck in the mid- 40s, which is where it stayed for most of the year.
Let's bring in our chief national correspondent John King, and our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.
The new numbers in this CNN/ORC poll show, point out that for Democrats, 30 percent of Americans say they're very angry about the way thing are going in the country right now, 22 percent said that in 2012, the percentage today is about the same as it was in 2010 when the Democrats suffered a shellacking, in the words of President Obama, as you remember.
So, what's going on here?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a very similar dynamic, absent that the Republicans don't have the intensity, I don't think they had in 2010. But you do have, look, that presidential number, that's the national number.
Remember, most of the competitive terrain, the competitive terrain this year is in red states. Most of the Senate races, the count in red states. A few of them in states the president carried. But even in those states like Colorado and Iowa, the Republican candidates are leading at least by a little at a moment.
So, you look at the national number, then you look at that anger. What does that tell you? The president is weak. The voters are mad. And in a midterm year, the history is they take it out on the president and his party. Now, no incumbent should be happy in this environment, but history tells you, the president and his party get the bigger whack.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, one of the numbers we looked at, Wolf, is we asked people if they're satisfied with the way they're being governed. And the answer was 74 percent, no.
So, to John's point, that really hurts Republicans as well as Democrats. One of the reasons you may not see one of these wave elections, is that people are so dissatisfied with everybody. They're going to hole their noses and vote no matter whom it's for. But there is no sense like, oh, right, the Republicans would be so much better than the Democrats. They really don't feel that way.
BLITZER: Yes, two-thirds say they're angry. As many as 60 percent say they're very or somewhat scared right now. So, that's a pretty significant number right there.
KING: And you look at the terrain of the last couple months -- yes, there's been better economic news, but what are we talking about? We're talking about beheadings of American journalists. We're talking about a military campaign against ISIS. Now, we're talking about the threat of Ebola, you know, in West Africa, and the isolated cases here in the United States.
So, the American people are processing grim, bleak, depressing, scary, anxious news. And that makes them anxious as voters. And again, history says, you know, Democrats think this isn't fair. But history just says they take it out more on the president and his party in the midterm election. That's the way it goes.
But to Gloria's point, look at the Senate race in Kentucky. Barack Obama carried four counties. So, if there was ever a year where the Republicans should be winning a state easy, it is that state. The president is an issue in the midterm election. It's a state where he's hugely unpopular. But Mitch McConnell is in really close race. Why? Because he's a poster child for Washington.
BLITZER: Gloria, in this new poll, only 26 percent of Democratic voters said they're extremely or very enthusiastic about voting, 36 percent of Republican voters said they're enthusiastic about voting. So, that presumably is going to hurt the Democrats.
BORGER: It's going to hurt the Democrats. It is clear there's a Republican advantage on enthusiasm. But if you go back to 2010 when there was a wave election, 54 percent of Republicans said they were enthusiastic.
So, you know, you saw that more in 2010 than you're seeing it now. Again, yes, Republicans are anxious to go out to vote. Yes, Republicans dislike the president more than Democrats do. But are they as enthusiastic as they were when Barack Obama lost control of the House of Representatives and John Boehner became speaker? No.
BLITZER: Let's talk quickly about Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor. Some of all of sudden, some of his relatives are saying, you know what, he's serious thinking about running for president.
BORGER: Yes. It's kind of been a little drip, drip, drip. We saw George P., his son, his eldest son over the weekend telling ABC that his father was more than likely that he's giving this serious thought. I spoke with someone who is close to Jeb Bush today who said, wanting to do this and doing it are two different things, and nobody understands better about what it takes than Jeb Bush and also, of course, Hillary Clinton.
BLITZER: But significantly, his son, they are very close. George P. is running for office in Texas. They're very, very close. His son says the family concerns are being mitigated. He says the wife is onboard, he said Barbara Bush, the mother is willing to be quiet.
So, if that's the case, if the family issues are settled or at least close to settled, then Jeb Bush has this decision to make. He's against his party based on immigration. He's against his party based on Common Core, the education standards, because he want to run for president and essentially plant a flag, look the base in the eye and say, to win, you have to admit you're wrong.
BLITZER: I just got a tweet from George P. Bush saying he is following me on Twitter. BORGER: Well, we hope he's watching, right?
BLITZER: I don't know what that means but he's following me. Guys, thanks very much for joining us.
BLITZER: That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.
If you want to follow me on Twitter, go @WolfBlitzer.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.