Ebola funding pledges highlighted by CDC

By Nick Silver

BBC World Service

Please turn on JavaScript. Media requires JavaScript to play. Advertisement The Obama administration has pledged $730m (£400m) for the fight against the Ebola outbreak that has killed 4,800 people in West Africa. It is part of a $1.6bn global funding package to fight the virus. The money is part of a World Health Organisation/USAID plan to prevent and fight the spread of the disease. The virus, spread through contact with bodily fluids, has been detected in parts of Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Viruses do not care about geography. We are in a crisis situation

Dr Anne Schuchat

Centers for Disease Control/CDC How Ebola is transmitted The first case was traced to a US visitor at a hotel in Guinea’s capital, Conakry. Twenty out of 24 cases have been confirmed in Liberia.

Nearly 100 people are under quarantine there, the WHO has said. More than 1,000 are being treated in Guinean hospitals, mostly in Conakry. To eradicate the disease, African states must ensure the safety of the health workers and volunteers who travel in and out of the country. How dangerous is Ebola? The treatment of Ebola is a two-pronged tactic: supply of medical materials to quarantine areas and intensify efforts to trace all contacts of the probable and confirmed cases. The restrictions currently being placed on travel to the affected countries have caused an acute shortage of supplies. Medical equipment is in short supply, with the number of training centres in Nigeria and Liberia for the first time having to be restricted. The WHO said its own laboratories were running “zero-dose trials” to deal with the rising number of Ebola cases, as standard treatment techniques for Ebola is virtually useless. Every Ebola patient should receive transfusions of blood plasma from healthy individuals with the same or a similar serum-population profile, says the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). The treatment is based on the concept of complementarity; the treatment works if its recipient’s cells play a role in disease control. ‘Unknown virus’ In its first annual report on Ebola, the WHO says the virus has proved particularly difficult to contain. Once it has an established foothold in a country, it is difficult to force its eradication. “We cannot foresee that Ebola virus disease can be defeated,” says Dr Dr Anne Schuchat, director of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCDC). DR. FRANK OSTONACHE / BBC WORLD SERVICE “It is impossible to predict where Ebola virus disease will go in the future but we know it is difficult to contain. “It is well known there are many cases that are not reported. So as with any disease that is associated with extensive transmission, we would expect to see increasingly higher cases and deaths.” CDC officials have warned that the threat posed by Ebola is still “emerging”, in part because it is not well understood. However, Dr Schuchat told the BBC that controlling the current outbreak would require a combination of prevention and protective healthcare and a serious approach to disease management. “We do know Ebola virus is able to infect human respiratory secretions,” she says. “So we know it is effective as a pathogen in the tissues of mammals.” The disease is also unpredictable in its intensity. Dr Schuchat explains that once an Ebola infection is detected, it can spread rapidly, but then it can be kept at bay through contact with well-exercised healthcare workers. Surveillance is still critical to controlling the epidemic, according to CDC officials. Health workers at risk The US has responded to the Ebola outbreak with an order to boost the number of Ebola-infected air travellers screening will examine at airports. Department of Homeland Security officials are also exploring the possibility of importing the virus into the US. “I know we have that capacity in place already, but how do we use it? Because the threat from the virus is unknown, how can we ramp up our capacity to track down any trips from West Africa that are infected with the virus and bring them to the US if they pose a risk?” the CDC’s Dr Schuchat says.

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