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Ebola Outbreak Still Serious In West Africa


Health workers walk in an isolation center for people infected with Ebola at Donka Hospital in Conakry, April 14, 2014.

The United States and other partners are working with international health officials to help contain the outbreaks.

The outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease that struck West Africa this spring continues, with new infections confirmed in Guinea and Sierra Leone. Local health agencies and international aid organizations were mobilized to fight the threat after the outbreak and the new cases were quickly identified and confirmed.

A particularly virulent virus, Ebola is believed to originate with an infected animal and spread to humans by handling them or eating their undercooked meat. Infected humans can spread it to others through contact with their body fluids. Thus, additional infections often occur in family members, health care workers or those who follow local customs of touching or hugging the deceased at funerals. Ebola’s early symptoms include fever and weakness, then progresses to diarrhea, vomiting and internal bleeding. There are currently no medications to treat Ebola and no vaccine has been developed. Previous outbreaks have occurred in Central Africa, but this is the first reported incidence in West Africa.

As the number of confirmed Ebola cases mount, officials with international health agencies say many unreported infections exist as families try to treat sick relatives through traditional methods and decline to inform health workers. Make no mistake. Halting such an outbreak depends on finding cases and isolating the victims to prevent additional infections. These efforts are hampered in the remote, rural areas of Africa where fear of health workers and modern medicine interferes with evaluation and care of those who are ill.

The United States and other partners are working with international health officials to contain the outbreaks too. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is helping coordinate testing of samples from suspected cases of Ebola infection. A two-person team of CDC experts has been in Guinea, the center of the outbreak, to aid the World Health Organization-led international response, and work with ministries of health in the affected nations.

The U.S. Agency for International Development is funding a mobile laboratory in Guinea that can quickly do tests in suspected cases of the disease. Under another USAID grant, protective equipment is being provided to health care workers treating the sick. And the U.S. Defense Department is working with a company that monitors viral disease threats around the world, to provide assistance to Ministries of Health for lab testing of samples from suspect cases.

Our diplomatic missions in the capitals of the affected nations, as well as others, are monitoring the situation there closely. And USAID has provided $583,500 through UNICEF’s Regional Rapid Response Fund to provide households and clinics in Guinea with supplies and equipment, as well as to fund a public information campaign to help people protect themselves from infection.

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