The “window of opportunity” to get a handle on the exploding Ebola outbreak in West Africa is closing, Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Tuesday.
Frieden, just back from a trip to Ebola-affected countries, implored governments and organizations worldwide to step up their response to the disease, as a U.S.-based missionary organization confirmed that a third American aid worker has contracted the disease.
“This is not just a problem for West Africa, it’s not just a problem for Africa. It’s a problem for the world, and the world needs to respond,” Frieden told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “Like it or not, we live in an interconnected world.”
Frieden said that during his trip, he witnessed brand-new Ebola wards that didn’t have enough beds and saw patients on the ground. He said the hardest hit countries needed data reporting and rapid response teams that might prevent the disease from spreading.
“There is a window of opportunity to tamp this down, but that window is closing. We need action now,” Frieden said.
So far, the disease has killed more than 1,552 people in West Africa, and infected a total of at least 3,069, according to the latest numbers released by the World Health Organization. WHO officials said tests have confirmed the first case of Ebola virus in Senegal, making it the fifth country in the region to be affected.
The CDC director told CBS early Tuesday the Ebola outbreak was “spiraling out of control,” adding he fears the situation will only worsen over the coming weeks.
The agency will be sending personnel to the region for longer periods of time to help with the fight against Ebola, Frieden said.
He pleaded for individuals and organizations with specialized skills to consider increasing their response in the West African nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, where the disease has hit hardest.
In the meantime, U.S. missionary organization SIM announced Tuesday that a third American aid worker had become ill with Ebola while working at a medical facility jointly run by the organization in Liberia.
The aid worker, a U.S. doctor, was treating obstetrics patients at the ELWA hospital in Monrovia, and had not been working in the Ebola isolation ward, which is separate from the rest of the facility, officials with the group said.