President Barack Obama on Nov. 5 asked the United States Congress for $6.2 billion in emergency relief funds to fight Ebola at its source in West Africa and prevent its possible spread in the U.S.
About $4.5 billion of the funds would be used for immediate response to the virus. More than $1.5 billion of the total would be for a contingency fund to deal with any unanticipated developments, including additional outbreaks in West Africa or the need to vaccinate U.S. health care workers.
The request is 70 times larger than the $88 million for anti-Ebola funding approved by Congress in September. Obama said his ‘foremost priority is protecting the health of Americans,’ and the money would support those efforts.
If approved, it is unclear how much if any of the funds would be used for Ebola isolation units, mobile hospital equipment, portable medical facilities or portable shelter systems.
Ebola Infection Rate Increases in Sierra Leone
New data shows the number of people infected with the Ebola virus each day in Sierra Leone is nine times higher than it was two months ago.
Sierra Leone averaged 1.3 cases of Ebola a day in early September. The number of new cases jumped to 12 a day by the end of October. Rural areas surrounding Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown have been hit especially hard, prompting the African Governance Initiative to say Ebola is ‘continuing to spread frighteningly quickly’ in those areas.
More than 13,000 people have been infected and at least 4,951 killed by the virus in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The World Health Organization said Ebola transmission continues to be ‘widespread and intense’ in those countries.
Forbes magazine said the Ebola outbreak is a symptom of ‘compounding failures’ in the world’s response to the virus, which was first discovered almost 40 years ago but has no cure or vaccine.
As the number of infected continues to rise in Africa, many Western countries are taking steps to prevent the virus from reaching their shores. In England, airports have begun Ebola screenings of travelers from areas where the risk if infection is high.
Additionally, Louisiana banned 30 Ebola experts who recently traveled to West Africa from attending a conference on infectious diseases in New Orleans. Canada and Australia have also placed restrictions on travel to and from Ebola hotspots, but some epidemiologists question the efficacy of those measures.
Worries about potential outbreaks in areas other than West Africa are not confined to the national or state level. County health officials in North Carolina are monitoring five people who recently returned from West Africa. So far, those being monitored have not shown signs of infection.
Africa and the World Seek Ebola Cures, Better Responses
Although mostly grim, or at least fearful, not all the news of Ebola involves escalating infection rates and increasing death tolls.
While speaking at the New Orleans infectious disease conference, U.S. federal health officials unveiled a plan to test multiple drugs for treatment of Ebola at the same time.
Doctors in Guinea discovered a method for keeping the mortality rate for Ebola patients lower in their country — 43 percent — than in neighboring African states, which have death rates ranging between 60 and 70 percent. The doctors credited keeping patients hydrated using intravenous fluids with keeping them alive.
Additionally, U.S. college students are working to develop better protective gear for health workers in West Africa as part of a $5 million contest.
And in Spain, a nurse’s aide considered to be the first person outside of Africa to be infected with Ebola was released from a hospital after being treated for the virus.
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