U.S. Medical Experts and Emergency Responders Arrive in Liberia

Like all incoming airline passengers arriving in Liberia, CDC Director Tom Frieden had his temperature taken with an infrared thermometer at Roberts International Airport (RIA) outside Monrovia on August 24.

A high-level delegation of U.S. medical experts and emergency responders, led by Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Tom Frieden, is in Liberia to see firsthand the impact of the Ebola outbreak, to assess response activities, and to hear from government officials, international partners, and health care workers in West Africa to see what can be done to stop the disease.

Liberia is the first stop on CDC Director Frieden’s trip to the region, which will also take him to Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Dr. Frieden is accompanied by Dr. Tom Kenyon, Director of CDC’s Center for Global Health, and Jeremy Konyndyk (PDF), Director of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA).   They arrived in Monrovia on August 24.

Dr. Frieden held a one-on-one meeting with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Monday, and later met with most of the members of Liberia’s National Task Force on Ebola, including President Sirleaf, Vice President Joseph Boakai, President Pro Temp of the Senate Alex Tyler, Speaker of the House Gbehzohngar Findley and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Francis S. Korkpor.  Key members of the Cabinet and Senators and Representatives also attended the meeting. The discussion centered on the key challenges facing Liberia as it tries to curtail the spread of the disease.

The U.S. delegation led by Dr. Frieden will also meet this week with Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Dr. Walter Gwenigale, Liberian health care workers and tour hospitals where Ebola patients are being treated, as well as tour a laboratory operated by the Liberian Institute for Biomedical Research (LIBR) and a mobile lab, which the U.S. Government sent to Liberia last week to improve Ebola specimen testing.

CDC Director Frieden will also hold talks this week with high-level UN officials to hear about the international community’s response to the crisis.

CDC Director Tom Frieden washes his hands at RIA on August 24. It’s another measure, among others, that is being used at the airport, government buildings and private businesses to try to stop the spread of Ebola.

On August 24, the U.S. Government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Ebola Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), sent more than 16 tons of medical equipment and emergency supplies to Liberia, including:

  • 10,000 sets of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE);
  • Two water treatment units and two water portable water tanks, capable of holding 10,000 liters of water each;
  • 100 rolls of plastic sheeting, which can used in the construction of Ebola treatment centers

The supplies will be distributed in partnership with the Liberian government, World Food Program (WFP), and local partners to places of need around Liberia.

On August 23, a cargo plane—funded by UNICEF and the DART— landed in Monrovia, carrying more than 40 tons of chlorine and 400,000 pairs of medical gloves.

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 Liberia to set up laboratories and train more laboratory workers to expand laboratory capacity to conduct more efficient and quicker Ebola testing.

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.

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 is the regional hub for the U.S. government’s Ebola response activities.  The DART now comprises 27 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.

In the first two weeks of August, CDC increased its staff in the region to battle Ebola.  There are currently more than 65 CDC disease-control experts working in West Africa:  27 in Sierra Leone, 21 in Liberia, 15 in Guinea and 6 in Nigeria. These experts are providing technical expertise to national public health agencies in the region to help prevent, detect, and stop the spread of Ebola.

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.  The 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 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.