The United States and other partners are working with international health officials to aid the fight.
Health officials in West Africa are struggling to contain an outbreak of Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever, a deadly contagion that has claimed more than 100 lives. The first cases were reported last month in Guinea, and now also are being seen in neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone. While working to respond to the crisis, the World Health Organization has not recommended any trade or travel restrictions in the region. Nevertheless, as a sign of its concern, Senegal has closed the land border it shares with Guinea as a preventive measure.
Given the deadly nature of the disease, such concern is justified. Ebola is highly infectious and has no cure. A particularly virulent virus, Ebola is believed to originate with an infected animal and is spread to humans by diet or contact with bodily fluids. Its early symptoms include fever and weakness, then deepens with bouts of diarrhea, vomiting and internal bleeding. There have been previous outbreaks of the disease in the forests of Central Africa, but this is the first incidence of it reported in the West African nations contending with it now.
They are not acting alone, though. The United States and other partners are working with international health officials to aid the fight. A five-member team from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Viral Special Pathogens Branch flew to Guinea on March 31 to provide expert advice and consultation. In addition, a small team of CDC experts will travel to Liberia to provide technical assistance to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.
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. The U.S. Defense Department is working with Metabiota, Inc., a company that monitors viral disease threats around the world, to provide assistance 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 fund a public information campaign to help people protect themselves from infection.
Finally, we extend our sympathies to the families and loved ones of those who have died, and for those fighting the disease know that our thoughts and prayers are with you.