The United States has done a great deal to try to stop the out-of-control Ebola epidemic in West Africa, but The Hill outlines additional steps the nation could take if the crisis gets worse.
The outbreak will likely infect 20,000 people before the virus stops spreading, World Health Organization (WHO) officials said last week. So far, more than 1,500 people in West Africa are dead--nearly half of the 3,500 cases confirmed in five countries since March.
Three Americans working in Liberia contracted the virus. Two aid workers received treatment at Emory Hospital in Atlanta and were discharged last month. The third American, a doctor from Worcester, Massachusetts who was treating pregnant women in the ELWA Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, will receive treatment at Nebraska Medical Center, ABC News reports.
The U.S. is also working with the United Nations to coordinate and recruit worldwide help. But The Hill suggests that the country could take additional steps, such as:
Involve the military: Thomas Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, suggests the Department of Defense (DOD) could use its resources to set up healthcare facilities, establish chains of transport and deploy medical equipment on the ground. "It is hard to overstate how crucial the Department of Defense was in Haiti" after the 2010 earthquake, Inglesby told the publication. "For Ebola, we're going to need sustained logistical transport of both people and materials in and out of the affected countries. It's hard to imagine a force more prepared to handle that than DoD."
Provide food: The epidemic will likely result in food shortages, particularly among quarantined families and neighborhoods. "It's harder to contain the virus if people are leaving home in search of food," said Inglesby.
Earmark funds: Congress could appropriate funds to the WHO or other U.S. agencies that can respond to Ebola. New funds could bring agencies back to a level of readiness seen after September 11 and the 2002 SARS outbreak, infection disease experts told The Hill. "The ideal way that Congress can help is to sustain programs that respond to public health crises and sustain research, particularly basic disease research," Margaret Kosal, assistant professor at Georgia Tech, told the publication.