Continuing coverage of the Ebola Epidemic affecting West Africa with the potential to spread to a wider region. The 1st article in the series can be found here.
The Fight Ramps Up
The 2014 Ebola outbreak “is moving faster than our efforts to control it..this is an unprecedented outbreak accompanied by unprecedented challenges. And these challenges are extraordinary,” said Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) in response to the continued devastation in Africa where the outbreak has claimed at least 932 lives, including that of Sierra Leone’s leading Ebola expert Dr. Sheikh Umar Khan, and over 1700 cases. The WHO announced on August 6th that it will convene a special panel to deliberate the use of experimental drugs in an attempt to control the outbreak with innovative measures.
The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has raised its Emergency Operations Center Response to the Ebola epidemic to a Level One, its highest level of response. Level One has occurred only 2 other times in the CDC’s history: Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the H1N1 Outbreak in 2009. The CDC has 240 staff members working on the Ebola response and 30 members in the affected regions with more en route.
Many organizations such as US Peace Corps have already evacuated hundreds of volunteers from the most severely affected areas in West Africa. The situation has garnered international concern and the World Health Organization recently announced allocation of $100 million in funds to provide much needed supplies and officials to reverse the disease’s overwhelming tide and plans to send another 50 specialists to West Africa to help control the outbreak. But as efforts are escalated to treat those infected, containment protocols have also been expanded:
– The CDC has issued a Level 3 travel warning (highest level) for US citizens that severely discouraged from all nonessential travel to those countries hardest hit by the virus: Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia
– In Sierra Leone the government has announced plans to quarantine the hardest hit regions and to deploy security personnel to assist healthcare workers in their efforts to combat the disease
– Liberia has declared that all non-essential government personnel will be placed on a thirty-day long complusory leave and is making plans to close all schools temporarily
– Meanwhile from Nigeria to New York, vigilance has been increased at airports for passengers arriving from endemic regions with symptoms consistent with the Ebola virus. Dr. Jay Varma, deputy commissioner for disease control at the New York health department has reassured the public that any such affected individual would be briefly quarantined at the airport before being transported to an area hospital for further evaluation.