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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today issued a warning to avoid nonessential travel to the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. This Level 3 travel warning is a reflection of the worsening Ebola outbreak in this region.
The CDC is rapidly increasing its ongoing efforts in the three nations. CDC disease detectives and other staff are on the ground:
• Tracking the epidemic including using real-time data to improve response
• Improving case finding
• Improving contact tracing
• Improving infection control
• Improving health communication
• Advising embassies
• Coordinating with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners
• Strengthening Ministries of Health and helping them establish emergency management systems
“This is the biggest and most complex Ebola outbreak in history. Far too many lives have been lost already,” says CDC director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “It will take many months, and it won’t be easy, but Ebola can be stopped. We know what needs to be done. CDC is surging our response, sending 50 additional disease control experts to the region in the next 30 days.”
CDC expects its efforts not only to help bring the current outbreak under control, but to leave behind stronger systems to prevent, detect and stop Ebola and other outbreaks before they spread.
In addition to warning travelers to avoid going to the region, CDC is also assisting with active screening and education efforts on the ground in West Africa to prevent sick travelers from getting on planes. On the remote possibility that they do, CDC has protocols in place to protect against further spread of disease. These include notification to CDC of ill passengers on a plane before arrival, investigation of ill travelers, and, if necessary, quarantine. CDC also provides guidance to airlines for managing ill passengers and crew and for disinfecting aircraft. Earlier this week, CDC issued a Health Alert Notice reminding U.S. healthcare workers of the importance of taking steps to prevent the spread of this virus, how to test and isolate suspected patients and how they can protect themselves from infection.
At this time, CDC and its partners at points of entry are not screening passengers traveling from the affected countries. It is important to note that Ebola is not contagious until symptoms appear, and that transmission is through direct contact of bodily fluids of an infected, symptomatic person or exposure to objects like needles that have been contaminated with infected secretions.
Over the next five years the United States has committed to working with at least 30 partner countries (totaling at least 4 billion people) to improve their ability to prevent, detect, and effectively respond to infectious disease threats -- whether naturally occurring or caused by accidental or intentional release of pathogens.
Improving these capabilities for each nation improves health security for all nations. Stopping outbreaks where they occur is the most effective and least expensive way to protect people’s health.
The President’s FY 2015 budget includes a request of $45 million to fund this global health security effort.