Yesterday in Washington, D.C., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden said “real progress” has been made in the global response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Photo by Daniel Greenberg/APHA

Yesterday in Washington, D.C., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden discussed late-breaking developments in the ongoing Ebola epidemic in West Africa. While the impact of the epidemic has changed dramatically in the most affected countries — Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone — Frieden’s rallying cry remains steadfast.

“Until we get to zero cases,” he said, “we won’t get to zero risk in West Africa or here.

“We have seen tremendous progress. The difference between August and September, when I was there, and late December, is really night-to-day. But there is enormous heterogeneity within and between countries.”

In the three West African nations alone, the World Health Organization has reported an estimated 21,171 cases of Ebola in the latest outbreak, representing 90 percent of cases ever reported. But the disease is being contained in many areas, in large part because of American investments; Kaiser Family Foundation Association Director of Global Health Policy Josh Michaud said the U.S. has provided $861 million for Ebola response in West Africa, more than one-third of all global funding.

Frieden shared status updates in West Africa, including in:

  • Liberia, where a “rapid isolation and treatment of Ebola” strategy and coordinated community action have helped decrease the duration of outbreaks. The number of new cases per day is now in the single digits, compared to more than 30 per day weeks ago.
  • Sierra Leone, where collaborative action between health care workers and citizens, especially in terms of “safe and dignified burials,” have led to reductions in cases.
  • Guinea, where cases are increasing in some parts of the country. The “challenge of resistance” has hindered health care efforts, Frieden said, from citizens who don’t believe Ebola exists to others who are unhappy with government interventions.

“The job is far from over,” Frieden said. “But we are making real progress. And that progress is in no small part because of the interest and commitment not only from people on the front lines, from CDC and local staff to around the U.S. government, but also of people in (West African cities) and people throughout the U.S., who have really stepped up to say, ‘An outbreak anywhere is an outbreak everywhere, and we’re committed to helping stop it.’”

Visit APHA’s Ebola page for more resources on the outbreak, including our action alert about the importance of public health funding in the wake of the outbreak and a Get Ready fact sheet for the public.