Strengthening Public Health Response to the Ebola Outbreak

The U.S. Response to the Ebola Outbreak 2014

After the Ebola outbreak began in West Africa, CDC quickly ramped up operations. In the United States, CDC and HHS worked with state health departments to prepare for domestic cases.

Thomas Eric Duncan died of Ebola at a Dallas hospital and two nurses who treated him became infected. Their stories sparked public concern.

U.S. Africa Command

The Department of Defense’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) was established as a unified combatant command in 2007. It consolidated military activities that were previously scattered among three geographical commands.

AFRICOM’s mission is to partner with African countries to promote peace and security in the region. It conducts theater security cooperation engagements to foster mutual understanding, including joint training exercises and exchanges with military, police and law enforcement officials; counter violent extremist organizations; and promote regional stability and security.

The command also coordinates Defense Department programs supporting U.S. diplomacy in Africa, such as the Cutlass Express series of joint naval exercises with Africa-based participants. Despite its global reach, AFRICOM will remain headquartered at Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, for the foreseeable future. A move to Africa would be a significant change and would only take place after careful diplomatic consultation with potential host nations. Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, home to the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, is the command’s only permanent presence on the continent.

U.S. Agency for International Development

The outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa is a wake-up call for all countries in sub-Saharan Africa to focus on strengthening their health care systems. The current crisis is also an opportunity to address structural factors that have long hindered the ability of these countries to respond to and contain infectious diseases.

Nurses are key in educating communities about the importance of reporting suspected Ebola cases to local and national response teams. They are trusted community resource persons who speak local languages and are able to share accurate information in house-to-house visits.

The Biden Administration has given the Administrator of USAID a permanent seat on the National Security Council, a greater role than under previous Administrations. The agency focuses on the concept of participatory development, which involves citizens in decisions that affect their countries and communities. It promotes the national interest and advance U.S. economic, trade and political interests abroad. For more information, visit USAID’s budget webpage.

U.S. Department of State

The Department of State manages the diplomatic outreach component of the U.S. response to the Ebola outbreak, working closely with USAID and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Specifically, the Department has tasked USAID with airlifting personal protective equipment and other supplies to the region; helping to establish mobile laboratories in West Africa; and funding programs that educate communities about Ebola and how to prevent its spread.

CDC personnel in Atlanta have also been key, providing around-the-clock support for the effort to control the crisis, including laboratory work and communication, analysis, management, and other critical functions. In addition, CDC has worked to reduce the likelihood of transmission through travel by helping international, federal, and state partners establish airport risk assessment and tracking protocols for travelers departing and arriving from affected countries, as well as by disseminating risk communications to change behavior, decrease rates of transmission, and confront stigma, both in the United States and in West Africa.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) works 24/7 to protect America from health, safety and security threats, whether they originate at home or abroad. The CDC is one of the major operating components of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak devastated Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone—three of the world’s poorest countries. Ending the epidemic required immense efforts by these and other partners. CDC supported >3,500 staff deployments, including epidemiologic fieldwork, risk-reduction communications, laboratory testing, improvements in infection control, and research on risk factors, vaccine development, and viral persistence.

Nurses can be an important asset in any response to a public health crisis. They know their communities and can communicate information about the illness to people inside and outside of affected areas. They can also provide care for people suspected of being infected with Ebola, including administering medications to prevent transmission and treat symptoms. This is especially important in remote, resource-poor regions where medical infrastructure is limited.

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