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CDC disease detective inspects gear prior to deploying to West Africa for Ebola outbreak
CDC Disease Detective Rebecca inspects her gear prior to deploying to West Africa for the Ebola outbreak.

CDC ramps up Ebola fight

By Steven Ross Johnson
Posted: August 13, 2014 - 6:00 pm ET

More than 50 disease experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have arrived in West Africa to aid in efforts to stop the spread of the ongoing Ebola virus outbreak responsible for more than 1,000 deaths across four countries, the agency said Wednesday.

The CDC said 55 people have been deployed to West Africa to fight the outbreak that has ravaged ill-equipped health systems throughout the region for the past several months. A total of 14 agency personnel will be stationed in Guinea, 16 in Sierra Leone, 18 in Liberia and seven in Nigeria, where recent reports of as many as 10 cases were confirmed in Lagos, which has a population of roughly 21 million. More than 60 staff members are expected to remain in the four countries on a continuous basis, though the number of personnel in any given country may change from day to day, the agency said.

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The deployment is about two weeks ahead of the initial timetable the CDC first announced July 31 of sending experts to the region over the course of a 30-day period. Last week, the agency went on its highest alert level in response to the outbreak, the first time it has done so since the avian flu pandemic in 2009.

“We are fulfilling our promise to the people of West Africa, Americans, and the world, that CDC would quickly ramp up its efforts to help bring the worst Ebola outbreak in history under control,” Frieden said in a statement. “We know how to stop Ebola. It won't be easy or fast, but working together with our U.S. and international partners and country leadership, together we are doing it.”

More than 350 CDC personnel are involved in the response effort, the agency said, working logistics, communications analytics, management and other support functions.

Part of the agency's response effort will include experts helping to train local healthcare personnel and community health workers, some of whom have refused to treat Ebola patients out of fear of contracting the disease. CDC personnel also will gather information about the spread of the outbreak, as well as set up testing laboratories and train lab workers. Staff also will be involved in educating the public on how to avoid contracting the virus as well as working with airport and border personnel in the affected countries to prevent sick people from traveling.

There are growing concerns that the virus is outpacing efforts on the part of health workers to contain its spread. In its latest update released Wednesday, the World Health Organization said 128 new suspected and confirmed cases of Ebola virus were reported between Aug. 10 and Aug. 11, with 56 deaths. In all, more than 1,060 people have died and nearly 2,000 cases have been reported as of Aug. 11.

Follow Steven Ross Johnson on Twitter: @MHsjohnson

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