On Tuesday, September 16, President Obama visited the CDC (Center for Disease Control) in Atlanta to address the Ebola crisis.
According to the CDC, Ebola, previously known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a rare and deadly disease caused by infection with one of the Ebola virus strains. So far, Ebola has infected Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Senegal. There have been 5347 total cases and 2360 total deaths.
Obama stated that this could become an even bigger issue if the global network does not work together to try and eradicate this virus. “And that’s why, two months ago, I directed my team to make this a national security priority. We’re working this across our entire government, which is why today I’m joined by leaders throughout my administration, including from my national security team,” said Obama late Tuesday afternoon at the CDC.
So, what’s the updated plan? “At the request of the Liberian government, we’re going to establish a military command center in Liberia to support civilian efforts across the region — similar to our response after the Haiti earthquake,” said Obama.
“We’re going to create an air bridge to get health workers and medical supplies into West Africa faster. We’re going to establish a staging area in Senegal to help distribute personnel and aid on the ground more quickly. We are going to create a new training site to train thousands of health workers so they can effectively and safely care for more patients. Personnel from the U.S. Public Health Service will deploy to the new field hospitals that we’re setting up in Liberia.”
USAID will join with partners to distribute supplies and information kits to improve safety in Africa. Obama and his team are also going to build more treatment buildings, with more isolation spaces and more than 1,000 beds.
Now we know what Obama is doing, but what about the CDC?
The CDC is working with US government agencies, the World Health Organization, and other partners to help coordinate assistance and control Ebola activities with partners. According to the CDC, the staff is deployed to Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone to assist with response efforts, including surveillance, contact tracing, data management, laboratory testing, and health education. The center is working with airlines and airports to ensure that no one with the virus gets on a plane to another country, along with other travel restrictions.
The CDC has also been working closely with Emory Hospital, especially with two cases of American citizens who contracted Ebola in West Africa. The two patients, Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, were the first Ebola patients to be treated in the United States. Any hospital in the US would be able to provide better care and treatment than in Liberian hospitals, but you might be wondering why these patients were brought specifically to Atlanta, and not some other city. According to the chief nurse at Emory, “Emory University Hospital has a unit created specifically for these types of highly infectious patients, and our staff is thoroughly trained in infection-control procedures and protocols.”
Though Obama said, “First and foremost, I want the American people to know that our experts, here at the CDC and across our government, agree that the chances of an Ebola outbreak here in the United States are extremely low. We’ve been taking the necessary precautions, including working with countries in West Africa to increase screening at airports so that someone with the virus doesn’t get on a plane for the United States”, it would not hurt to take precautions in order to prevent an outbreak in the US.
If you can avoid it, the CDC suggests, do not travel to an affected country. But if you must, they say to avoid any contact with blood or other bodily fluids, because that is how Ebola spreads. CDC stated, “Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids. Avoid funeral or burial rituals that require handling the body of someone who has died from Ebola. Avoid contact with bats and nonhuman primates or blood, fluids, and raw meat prepared from these animals.”
Obama’s speech closed with this: “The reality is that this epidemic is going to get worse before it gets better. But right now, the world still has an opportunity to save countless lives. Right now, the world has the responsibility to act — to step up, and to do more. The United States of America intends to do more.”
The US really is intending to do more, and we are all praying that this crisis ends soon.