This week we got a rude reminder that Ebola is clearly not over in West Africa.
Another American aid worker contracted the disease in Sierra Leone, health officials reported Thursday. The infected worker was flown back to the U.S. in a private jet and is being treated at the National Institutes of Health Clinic Center in Maryland.
Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says several other Americans in Sierra Leone were potentially exposed to the virus when they came into contact with the infected worker.
None of these people have tested positive for Ebola, the CDC reported Friday. They are all being monitored in Sierra Leone, except for one person, who is being flown to Atlanta. That person is not showing any symptoms but will self-quarantine near Emory University Hospital, in case symptoms appear.
The world has recorded more than 24,000 Ebola cases so far, with nearly 10,000 reported deaths, the World Health Organization said Thursday.
The epidemic has drastically slowed in Liberia. The country hasn’t recorded a case in more than two weeks.
But nearly a year after the first Ebola case was reported, the epidemic is still out of control in Guinea and Sierra Leone. Both countries continue to record more than 50 new cases each week.
The CDC director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, was recently in Guinea, where he assessed the situation. He says the country is still a long way from ending the epidemic.
In many parts of Guinea, people still don’t believe Ebola is real or a serious threat, Frieden says. People are still suspicious of aid workers and treatment centers.
“I went to one Ebola treatment unit where some patients were not eating the food because they thought it would poison them,” Frieden says.
Right now, the CDC isn’t even sure where all the outbreaks are in Guinea, he says. The CDC is training and sending more epidemiologists to the country to track down and quarantine potential cases.
“There’s a still a risk that Ebola could be become endemic [in West Africa],” Frieden says. “But we’re going to do everything in our power note to let that happen. I believe we still can get to zero.”