CDC Issues Highest Level Alert For Ebola Outbreak

As criticism grows about the international community's slow response to the West African Ebola outbreak, the CDC is moving to contain the disease.

CDC Issues Highest Level Alert For Ebola Outbreak
European Commission DG ECHO / CC BY ND 2.0

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention activated it's emergency operation center at the highest response level Thursday as criticisms begin to circulate that the international community moved too slowly to respond to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

CDC director Tom Frieden testified in front of congress Thursday saying: "We can stop Ebola. We know how to do it, but it will be a long and a hard fight."

The CDC is sending 50 disease experts to West Africa in hopes of containing the outbreak, in addition to the 200 staff members in Atlanta working on the issue.

U.S. Representative Frank Wolf has been one of the voices calling for a stronger response in the past few weeks.

He said in a statement Thursday: "It appears that both international health organizations and the Obama Administration underestimated the magnitude and scope of this epidemic," but added, "It seems the international community and the U.S. have been noticeably absent in helping these West African countries get out in front of the spread of this epidemic."

Ken Isaacs, vice president of Samaritan's Purse, one of the nonprofit organizations that led the medical response to the outbreak, went as far as to call international involvement "a failure."

Now, the CDC has raised their response to level 1, their highest alert status, in an effort to stem the outbreak that has spread to four West African countries. 

"It's essentially an 'all hands on deck' call to mobilize resources across the agency, in this case, to respond to Ebola in West Africa. In does not, however, represent an increased threat in the U.S."

The CDC director said cases of Ebola in the U.S. are inevitable. But in interviews, he has reiterated that American health care systems are capable of handling Ebola and the disease is not likely to spread domestically.

There is currently no approved treatment for Ebola. Two Americans infected with the disease while treating patients in West Africa were given an untested drug that has improved their conditions. 

But it's unclear how much of that serum is available and how effective it will be — if at all. The Daily Beast reports officials are saying there isn't enough information about the treatment to begin administering it on a larger scale and it's uncertain how long it will take to further develop the drug.

This is the worst recorded outbreak of Ebola in history. More than 900 people have died so far.