Thank you for the opportunity to visit the Ebola Operation Center in Lagos. I am in Lagos for barely two hours and felt this is an important visit that I need to make. I have heard about the impressive work of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) response team and wanted to personally tell you that we stand with you in this fight. You are doing remarkable work in saving lives and preventing the spread of infections. Many of you may have heard President Obama’s recent message on EVD. I want to assure you that in the United States, we are stepping up efforts on the ground to contain the Ebola outbreak.
We currently have some 100 specialists working in all affected countries. The State Department, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Department of Defense (DOD) have increased assistance to all affected countries and to international organizations responding to the outbreak. Activities include:
— The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and CDC, along with USAID/OFDA, are engaged with the UN System Coordinator for Ebola, WHO headquarters, regional offices, and a new Ebola Coordination Center in Conakry, Guinea.
— The CDC is coordinating with health ministries in the affected countries, WHO, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), and other regional and international partners to provide critical epidemiologic, health communications, and laboratory support to combat Ebola. CDC has more than 60 staff members already in the region, and is planning to send another 26 disease control experts.
— USAID has committed more than $19 million to the Ebola response to date. These funds support public outreach and education, safe burial, the development of local response plans, delivery of critical medical supplies, and support to health officials.
— USAID has deployed a regional Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to Monrovia, Liberia and Conakry, Guinea to oversee the U.S. government’s regional response to the Ebola outbreak. On August 18, the DART announced it is sending additional staff to Sierra Leone to ramp up response efforts. The DART now comprises more than 20 members from across various U.S. government agencies, including USAID, CDC, HHS, and the Department of Defense.
— HHS, including CDC, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), is involved in highly collaborative, international research efforts towards the development of safe and effective vaccines, diagnostics, and therapies.
— Three core activities are needed to stop an Ebola outbreak: detect new cases, respond appropriately with rigorous infection control, and prevent future cases by interrupting transmission.
- Accurate diagnosis is needed to detect new cases. We must provide laboratory support to ensure that cases are identified.
- Once new cases have been identified, we must respond through support of patient care in treatment centers, preventing further transmission through proper infection control practices, and protecting healthcare workers. We must support the strengthening of health systems and facilities, and assist in training healthcare providers to identify new cases and prevent infection of healthcare workers.
- Prevention of future cases also relies on contact tracing. Epidemiologists must identify contacts of infected patients and follow up with them every day for 21 days to identify symptoms, initiating testing and isolation if symptoms emerge.