17 September 2014

US to fight its noblest war against Ebola

Sep 17, 2014

Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after a briefing on the response to the deadly Ebola virus epidemic in west Africa in Atlanta.

WASHINGTON: Pilloried for fighting needless, provocative wars across the world, the United States is embarking on one of its noblest interventions - fighting the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. President Barack Obama is sending 3,000 American military personnel and committing $500 million from country's war chest to combat the spread of the deadly virus that a German virologist has alarmingly declared is already out of control and will kill 5 million people. 

The US President is expected to roll out details of the plan in an address at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta later today but initial information coming from the administration is that U.S troops will use Liberia, one of the countries most affected, as a beachhead to help in the construction of 17 Ebola treatment centers with 1700 beds. The military will be providing engineers to help build the additional treatment facilities and will also send people to train up to 500 health care workers a week to deal with the crisis. 

The US government will also provide 400,000 Ebola home health and treatment kits to Liberia and neighboring countries to help test whether people have the disease. Public health campaigns will be broadcast through existing networks in the countries most affected by the virus -- Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea -- from where people are still trying to flee even as the world has imposed a cordon sanitaire around the region. 

"We've seen dozens of cases turn into hundreds, then hundreds turn into thousands," one US official who briefed journalists ahead of Obama's address in Atlanta said. "If we do not arrest that growth, and don't arrest that growth now, we could be looking at hundreds of thousands of cases." 

Already, a West German virologist has said it is too late to contain the virus in the affected countries and the next strategy should be to prevent it from escaping the region. "The right time to get this epidemic under control in these countries has been missed," Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit of the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg told Radio Deutsche Welle. "That time was May and June. Now it is too late." 

The virologist said hope is all but lost for the inhabitants of Sierra Leone and Liberia and that the virus will only "burn itself out" when it has infected the entire population and killed five million people in the region alone. 

The World Health Organisation and the US have refused to take such a grim, alarmist view. On Monday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said there was still a "very low" likelihood the Ebola virus could mutate in a way that poses a threat to the United States, but warned, "that risk would only increase if there were not a robust response on the part of the United States." 

Officials estimate that the effort could cost up to $750 million over the next six months, and since the Pentagon will lead the fight, at least $500 million of it will come from the country's depleted war chest that funded operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

No comments: