Healthcare Business News

CDC on Level 1 alert for Ebola, first such alert since 2009

By Steven Ross Johnson
Posted: August 7, 2014 - 11:30 am ET

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is on its highest level alert in response to the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa that has killed more than 900.

“Ops Center moved to Level 1 response to Ebola outbreak given the extension to Nigeria & potential to affect many lives,” tweeted CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden Wednesday.

A Level 1 alert is reserved for large-scale response to the most serious public health emergencies. Last week, the agency announced plans to deploy 50 public health staff to the nations of Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria over the next 30 days.

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The last time the CDC issued a Level 1 alert was in response to the avian flu pandemic in 2009.

More than 930 people have died as a result of the outbreak since March, making it the worst Ebola epidemic ever recorded.

Ebola is one of the world's deadliest viruses with a death rate as high as 90% without immediate medical care. The virus spreads through bodily fluids and it can be up to three weeks before an infected person begins to show symptoms that include vomiting, muscles aches and fever.

Providing medical care for patients sick with the virus usually consists of treating the most severe effects that develop as the disease progresses. During the end stages of the disease, uncontrollable bleeding will occur from the eyes, ears and nose. The loss of blood requires transfusions and a constant supply of IV fluids. Two infected Americans have been treated with an experimental drug for Ebola, and they seem to be responding to treatment. Their stories have thrust a small firm, San Diego-based Mapp Biopharmaceutical which makes the drug they received, into media's Ebola spotlight.

The Food and Drug Administration also recently authorized the use of an unapproved Ebola virus test developed for the U.S. military.

The CDC will remain on high alert in its response to the outbreak; the agency has estimated it could take three to six months before containment is achieved.

Agency experts will assist in educating the public on how to avoid contracting the virus as well as local health workers on proper safety protocols to prevent getting infected.

Follow Steven Ross Johnson on Twitter: @MHsjohnson

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