The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have 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.
According to the World Health Organization, the scale of the ongoing outbreak is "unprecedented," with approximately 1323 confirmed and suspected cases reported, and 729 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since March 2014.
World Health Organization Director General Margaret Chan and presidents of West African nations affected by the virus will meet Friday in Guinea to launch a new joint $100 million response plan as part of an intensified international, regional and national campaign to bring the outbreak under control.
“The scale of the Ebola outbreak, and the persistent threat it poses, requires WHO and Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to take the response to a new level, and this will require increased resources, in-country medical expertise, regional preparedness and coordination,” Chan said in a statement. “The countries have identified what they need, and WHO is reaching out to the international community to drive the response plan forward.”
WHO and affected (and neighboring) countries will renew efforts to mobilize communities and strengthen communication so that people know how to avoid infection and what to do if they fear they may have come into contact with the virus.
In another statement, the CDC said that it 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,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden. “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.”
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, however, the 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.
Signs, Symptoms and Preventative Measures
According to the CDC, 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.