(Adds details from call, byline)
By Julie Steenhuysen
CHICAGO, Sept 2 The world's worst Ebola outbreak
is threatening the stability of affected and neighboring
countries in West Africa and a "massive" response is needed to
bring it under control, the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention said on Tuesday.
Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. health agency who
just returned from West Africa, said he expected the number of
Ebola cases to accelerate in the next two weeks and urged
governments to act now.
"We're likely to see significant increases in cases. Already
we have widespread transmission Liberia. In Sierra Leone, we're
seeing strong signs that that will happen in the near future,"
Frieden said the outbreak was the first epidemic of Ebola
the world has ever known, meaning it is spreading widely in
society and is "threatening the stability" of affected and
"The challenge isn't knowing what to do. The challenge is
doing it now," Frieden said on a conference call with reporters.
Since it was detected in the remote jungles of southeastern
Guinea early this year, the Ebola outbreak has killed some 1,550
people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Despite international efforts to contain the deadly disease,
the number of cases "is now increasing rapidly," Frieden told
the briefing. "I'm afraid that over the next two weeks, those
numbers are likely to increase further."
Frieden said there is still a window of opportunity to tamp
down the outbreak, but said "that window is closing."
"We need action now to scale up the response. We know how to
stop Ebola. The challenge is to scale it up to the massive
levels needed to stop this outbreak," he said.
Swift response helped tire manufacturer Firestone contain
Ebola when an employee at its plant in Liberia became infected.
Frieden said the company built isolation rooms and
identified 73 contacts of the infected individual, then placed
them in isolation rooms for 21 days. Eleven of those employees
became ill, and they were treated in an isolated treatment ward
the company built. The effort completely contained the outbreak,
Frieden said, adding that type of response was widely needed.
According the Bridgestone/Firestone website, Firestone
Liberia provides jobs for more than 6,100 Liberians. here
Frieden said the virus has not mutated in a way that makes
it more transmittable, but the risk of such a mutation increases
each day the virus circulates within human populations.
During his tour of clinics, Frieden donned the same gear
that local Ebola healthcare workers are wearing to protect
themselves from the disease.
"It's roasting hot. It's very difficult to move. It's a very
distressing environment. Sweat pours down into your goggles and
into your eyes," he said.
Frieden appealed for healthcare workers and hospital
administrators experienced in this type of work in low resource
countries to volunteer their services through organizations such
as the CDC Foundation and Doctors without Borders.
"The virus is moving faster than anyone anticipated. We need
to move fast," he said.
(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama,