Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the United States Center for Disease Control, has announced that the agency has elevated its response to the Ebola virus to Level 1– the highest possible response level. The CDC heightened the level today in response to multiple new diagnoses and scares around the globe.
In a statement to the media, the CDC explains that it is increasing the amount of operational capacity dedicated to Ebola as a response to its rapid spread internationally, and at the behest of the World Health Organization:
CDC has contributed to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) efforts to control the Ebola outbreak in West Africa since the start of the outbreak. CDC now is taking a more active role, and has been invited by WHO to provide leadership on the technical front. The CDC has activated its Emergency Operations Center to its highest response level.
At home, CDC has updated infection-prevention protocols for hospitals where travelers with suspected Ebola exposures may present for treatment; for aircraft crew and airport personnel; and for laboratories handling specimens from suspected Ebola cases.
The CDC had previously issued a Level 3 travel alert to Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, advising Americans to stay out of the affected areas of West Africa. Level 3 is the highest possible alert warning against traveling to a country. In Nigeria, where five more cases have been diagnosed, the warning level has been raised to 2.
In the days since the Level 3 alert to the other Ebola-affected countries, Nigeria’s lone case has become five diagnoses and an additional death— a nurse who had treated Liberian Patrick Sawyer, who died shortly after flying in from his native country to Lagos, Nigeria with the disease. In Saudi Arabia, a man who was being tested for Ebola after entering the country from Saudi Arabia died before results could come in, while Spain prepares for the return of a priest who was positively diagnosed with the virus in West Africa.
In the United States, two patients– both Christian Missionaries previously working in Liberia– are being treated at Emory Medical Center in Atlanta, Georgia for Ebola. Six different individuals, none identified, have been tested for Ebola– one in New York, one in Baltimore, and one in Columbus, Ohio. The CDC has refused to disclose the locations of the other three tested, but has confirmed all six tested negative.
While the CDC issues precautions in the United States, the World Health Organization is currently conducting an emergency meeting to discuss, among other things, the ethics of providing patients in West Africa with a highly untested experimental serum that could cure the disease. WHO director general Margaret Chan warned of the disease, “This outbreak is moving faster than our efforts to control it.”