Infographic by CDC

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has now reached more than 1,700 reported cases and 900 deaths. On Friday, the World Health Organization confirmed that the outbreak has officially met the definition of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

In a House of Representatives hearing Thursday, U.S. and world health leaders explained that the outbreak can be stopped — in three steps:

  • finding active cases,
  • responding appropriately and
  • preventing future cases.

The key to this, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden, is “standard infection control, rigorously applied.”

“We do know how to stop Ebola,” Frieden said. “We, with our partners, have stopped every Ebola outbreak to date. I’m confident if we do what works, we will stop this one. The challenge isn’t the strategy, it’s implementation.”

On July 20, an American who had previous contact with an Ebola-infected patient boarded a flight from Liberia to Nigeria and died five days later. In recent weeks, Americans Nancy Writebol and Kent Brantly contracted the disease while working in Liberia. Both were returned for treatment at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

However, Frieden said that Ebola is not a significant threat to the U.S., mainly because it is not transmitted easily and does not spread from people who are not ill.

Several speakers at the hearing said that the key to mitigating the virus is to control it at the source — West African nations including Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. This week, the U.S. Agency for International Development activated a disaster response team in West Africa — including CDC public health and medical response positions — and announced $12.45 million in additional funding to both trace people who may be infected and prevent the spread of disease.

“U.S. investments are strengthening the global health workforce, increasing the capacity of African states to prepare, monitor and respond to disease outbreaks,” said Ariel Pablos-Méndez, USAID’s assistant administrator for global health. “But the Ebola outbreak highlighted serious gaps that remain.”

APHA has made available the Ebola-Marburg virus chapter of its forthcoming “Control of Communicable Diseases Manual, 20th Edition” — click this link to view* — as a free download to aid public health workers responding to the disease. Find out the latest about Ebola in CDC’s recent telebriefing, Q&A and infographic.

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