The Road to Zero

Last year at this time, the World Health Organization had just announced a cumulative total of 844 cases of Ebola and 518 deaths from Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. One year later, there have been 27,609 cases of Ebola in West Africa, and 11,261 deaths. 

Today, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released an Ebola One Year Report that highlights the stories, faces and facts behind CDC’s one-year anniversary of when the agency activated its Emergency Operations Center for the response. The international public health response to this epidemic is unprecedented for the agency, with more than 1,200 CDC employees that have traveled to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to assist with efforts on the ground. While the CDC’s report has many incredible stories, I found several quotes to be particularly pertinent in recapping the response to date:

  • “We’re learning in this outbreak that Ebola is not always a death sentence. We’re learning how to care for patients so more people can live through it. Getting to people early before they are so sick that they can’t be treated will not only improve survival rates but also prevent the virus from spreading.” –Dan Martin, CDC responder, Sierra Leone
  • “Burial teams told me over and over how they had to sit and talk to families for hours before the family would let them take the corpse away for safe burial. And they would sit and talk for hours just to make a family understand why it was helping the whole community to allow their loved one to be buried without the usual ritual.” –Leisha Nolen, CDC responder, Sierra Leone
  • “I learned a powerful lesson during my Ebola work, and that is the power of fear. Fear is a natural emotion; it’s supposed to protect us from injury or infection. When you see that lion, you run! But too much fear can be a bad thing. It was our responsibility to understand the science behind Ebola and use that to encourage positive action, not panic.” –John Brooks, lead for CDC’s Ebola Response Medical Care Task Force

The CDC Foundation continues to support CDC’s response efforts in West Africa, as new cases continue to be reported in all three countries affected. There is still a long road ahead, but CDC’s tremendous response is helping bring West Africa closer to zero cases of Ebola.

Charles Stokes is president and CEO of the CDC Foundation.