Spread Of Ebola In Liberia Appears To Be Slowing
There appears to be some good news on one of the main fronts in the fight against Ebola:
WASHINGTON — The international response to West Africa’s Ebolaepidemic, coupled with more effective action by local communities, has stopped the exponential spread of the disease in one of the hardest-hit countries, Liberia, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday.
In confirming what health officials and news organizations had reported for weeks, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the C.D.C. director, said that a previous worse-case projection by the agency that the Ebola epidemic could lead to 1.4 million cases by late January unless effective measures were taken to contain it was no longer applicable, crediting what he called “good progress” in Liberia.
“There’s been a substantial change in the trend,” Dr. Frieden said during a conference call with reporters. “There is no longer exponential increase, and in fact, there’s been a decrease” in the rate of infections in Liberia.
Health officials are less certain of the rate of infections in Guinea, another of the three most affected countries. Dr. Frieden said that in the third country, Sierra Leone, “both their epidemic and their response are several weeks behind Liberia.” He added that he hoped an increase in international aid to Sierra Leone, particularly from Britain, would help bring down the numbers there as well.
His comments came a day after the Pentagon said it was scaling back the size and number of Ebola treatment facilities that American troops are building in Liberia. Defense officials said that instead of building 17 units, as promised by President Obama, the military would build 10 treatment facilities, and that seven of them would have 50 beds each, rather than the 100 beds previously planned.
In addition, two other units that were to have been built by American troops will be built instead by an international aid group, administration officials said. Defense officials also said they were scaling back the number of American military personnel responding to the epidemic in West Africa, to 3,000 from 4,000.
Still, American defense and health officials cautioned that Ebola remained a significant health crisis in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and warned against letting up in the international aid effort there.
It’s obviously far too soon to let our guard down when it comes to fighting Ebola in the west African hot one, but this seems to be fairly good news. The slower the disease spreads, the easier it could be to start pushing back against its spread and, eventually stop it entirely before it becomes endemic in the population. It won’t happen quickly, especially given the fact that estimates now date the beginning of the outbreak until just under a year ago, but every step forward is good news, and this sounds like very good news.