(Adds details from conference call, background, byline)
By Julie Steenhuysen
CHICAGO, July 31 The U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention on Thursday issued a travel advisory
against non-essential travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone
to curb the spread of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa that has
claimed more than 700 lives.
CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said his agency will send an
additional 50 disease experts to assist with efforts to contain
the highly deadly virus, in what he called "the largest, most
complex outbreak that we know of in history."
Sierra Leone has declared a state of emergency and called in
troops to quarantine Ebola victims, joining neighboring Liberia
in imposing controls, as the death toll from the outbreak of the
virus in West Africa hit 729.
In a conference call with reporters, Frieden said the United
States is joining the World Health Organization and others in
escalating efforts to fight Ebola. He estimated that it could
take at least three to six months to get the outbreak under
The advisory against non-essential travel to the three
affected countries aims to prevent visitors from being exposed
to Ebola in local health facilities should they need medical
attention for other ailments, Frieden said.
He also said airlines will continue to fly into the affected
region, which will help maintain essential functions in the
Earlier on Thursday, the World Health Organization said it
was launching a $100 million response plan to combat Ebola in
West Africa, but is not recommending travel restrictions or
border closures due, saying there would be a low risk to other
passengers if an infected person flew.
CDC is also helping with screening and education efforts in
West Africa to prevent sick travelers from getting on planes.
If they do, Frieden said the agency has protocols in place
to protect against further spread of disease, including
notification to CDC of ill passengers on a plane before arrival,
investigation of ill travelers, and, if necessary, quarantine.
Ebola poses "little risk to the U.S. population," Frieden
said on the call.
Earlier this week, CDC issued a health alert notice,
reminding U.S. healthcare workers of the importance of taking
steps to prevent the spread of the virus, how to test and
isolate suspected patients and how they can protect themselves
There are no vaccines or effective treatments for Ebola,
Frieden noted, adding that containing the outbreak will require
the "meticulous work" of quarantining the sick and those who
have been in contact with them.
(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by James Dalgleish and