Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director, Dr. Tom Frieden just returned from West Africa to get a bird’s eye view of the West Africa Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak, the largest since the virus caused the first outbreaks in 1976.

Public domain image/Mondo Magic
Public domain image/Mondo Magic

In a press conference yesterday (LISTEN here), Dr, Frieden offered his thoughts and observations on the outbreak that has infected more than 3,000 and killed more than half.

“The bottom line is that despite tremendous efforts from the U.S. Government, from CDC, from within countries, the number of cases continues to increase and is now increasing rapidly. I’m afraid over the next few weeks; those numbers are likely to increase further and significantly. 

“There is a window of opportunity to tamp this down, but that window is closing. We need action now to scale up the response. We know how to stop Ebola. The challenge is to scale it up to the massive levels needed to stop this outbreak.”

Frieden went on the call the Ebola situation in West Africa an “epidemic”. “This is really the first epidemic of Ebola the world has ever known. By epidemic what we mean is it’s spreading widely through society but not spreading through new ways according to everything we know.

 It’s spreading from just two roots — people caring for other people in hospitals or homes. And unsafe burial practices where people may come in contact with body fluids of someone who has died from Ebola.”

That is really the achilles heel of this virus. We know how it spreads. We know how to stop it from spreading.  The challenge is to do that everywhere that’s needed. In order to do that effectively, speed is key. The number of cases is increasing so quickly that for every day’s delay, it becomes that much harder to stop it”, Frieden notes.

The director went on to describe the 3 things required to get this under control– “The first is more resources.  This is going to take a lot to confront. The second are technical experts in health care and management to help in country. And the third is a global coordinated unified approach because this is not just a program for — this is not just a problem for West Africa, it’s not just a problem for Africa, it’s a problem for the world and the world needs to respond.”

Frieden’s visit to the three West African countries led to some dire statements. “Everything I’ve seen suggests over the next few weeks it’s likely to get worse.  We’re likely to see significant increases in cases.”