Centre for Disease Control (CDC) Director Tom Frieden, returned from a visit to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and called for an immediate escalation in response to the Ebola epidemic.
During a media briefing on September 2nd, Frieden said that the number of Ebola cases is “increasing rapidly” and he called on all the world’s nations to join the United States in meeting the World Health Organization (WHO) appeal for $490 million in support. “Every single day we don’t increase our response further, it will get more difficult to control. The peak will be higher. It will last longer,” he said.
According to the CDC, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has committed more than $21 million for the response since the outbreak was first reported in March 2014. This funding is being used to provide resources such as health equipment and emergency supplies, food assistance, training and support to healthcare workers, and for developing local health care and emergency response systems.
Frieden’s comments follow last week’s report from the WHO which said there are now more than 3,000 confirmed cases of Ebola and the death toll has exceeded 1,500, making this the worst Ebola outbreak ever recorded. They also noted that the outbreak is accelerating with nearly 40% of the total number of cases having occurred in the last three weeks of August.
“The window of opportunity to stop Ebola from spreading widely throughout Africa and becoming a global threat for years to come is closing, but it is not yet closed,” said Friedman.
Containing and treating the outbreak is relatively straightforward but the region is lacking the resources and expertise needed. “There’s nothing mysterious about what we need to do. The only real question is will we do it fast enough,” he said.
The WHO’s roadmap laid out the goal of stopping on-going transmission within 6-9 months. Prioritisation will first be placed on setting up treatment centres, diagnosing patients and ensuring safe burials. They also noted that the final death toll could potentially exceed 20,000.
Frieden praised the local community in West Africa who are supporting CDC experts and health workers, “I am particularly impressed with the dedication and heroism of the people of West Africa who care for the sick, spread the word about how to prevent Ebola, clean contaminated areas, bury the dead, and welcome survivors back into their homes and communities,” he said.