The United States Increases Its Assistance for Anti-Ebola Efforts in West Africa

The United States is stepping up its efforts to help contain the Ebola outbreak in Liberia and the other affected countries in West Africa by increasing the number of personnel, emergency supplies, and funding to the region.

This week, the Ebola Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) —which is overseeing the overall U.S. Ebola response efforts—will be airlifting more medical equipment such as infrared thermometers to the affected areas. The U.S. Government, through the DART, is also working with partners to transport chlorine and medical gloves into Liberia and airlift Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from a USAID emergency warehouse in Dubai.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) disease-control experts are working closely with the Liberian government to strengthen the public health response. Activities include: bolstering surveillance systems at the national and county level; improving case detection, testing, and contract tracing; supporting rigorous infection control standards in treatment centers; and monitoring of incoming and departing passengers at Roberts International Airport.

A team of laboratory experts from CDC, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases is working with the Liberian Institute for Biomedical Research (LIBR) to set up laboratories and train more laboratory workers to expand laboratory capacity to conduct more efficient and quicker Ebola testing.

This week, CDC, in partnership with NIH, shipped a mobile testing laboratory to Liberia to increase the number of specimens being tested for Ebola.  CDC and LIBR are working to have the laboratory operational within a week.

Also, members of the DART have made several assessment trips and met with officials with the Liberian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to determine how and where to expand the number of Ebola treatment centers in the country.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is working with the U.N. World Health Organization (WHO) to provide 105,000 sets of PPE for healthcare workers and outbreak investigators in Liberia and other Ebola-affected countries.

On August 5, USAID deployed the DART to Monrovia, Liberia and Conakry, Guinea to oversee the U.S. Government’s regional response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.  On August 18, the DART announced it was sending additional staff to Sierra Leone to work with non-governmental organizations and U.N. agencies on the ground.  Monrovia, Liberia will remain the regional hub for the U.S. government’s Ebola response activities.  The DART now comprises 21 staff across various U.S. government agencies, including USAID, CDC, the U.S. Departments of Defense and Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Forest Service.

Since the Ebola outbreak was first reported in March 2014, the U.S. Government, through USAID, has committed more than $14.5 million to the response.  This funding has been used to provide more technical experts, PPE, health supplies, field laboratories and diagnostic capacity, training, and public service messaging campaigns, among other things.

In the first two weeks of August, CDC increased its staff in the region and now has more than 50 disease-control experts in West Africa to battle Ebola.  These experts are providing technical expertise to national public health agencies in the region to help prevent, detect, and stop the spread of Ebola.

In the early stages of the Ebola outbreak, the U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), the office in charge of countering weapons of mass destruction, and the U.S. State Department also provided PPE to the Liberian government, including surgical gowns, sets of protective coveralls, boxes of protective gloves, and decontamination hand sprayers.  The CDC and DTRA also sent in several teams of infectious disease experts to assist Liberian authorities to test Ebola specimens, track Ebola patients and their contacts, and to develop public awareness campaigns to try to stop the spread of the disease.