CDC-Zim Director Off To Sierra Leone On Ebola Mission

Harare, September 18, 2014-The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Zimbabwe country director, Dr Peter Kilmarx left Zimbabwe Wednesday on a mission to serve as United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC-Zim) Ebola Response Team leader in Sierra Leone. 

Kilmarx, who worked in Ebola affected areas in the early 90s, expressed confidence in his mission to Sierra Leone. “I have responded to epidemics before, I know how Ebola is transmitted, when there is good awareness and good protection the risk is very low. There have not been any CDC people affected in the outbreak, none of the MSF [Médecins Sans Frontières] people have been infected in any outbreak, so with good knowledge and good behaviors we can protect ourselves,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of a CDC- funded training workshop for health executives in Kadoma.

Kilmarx will be in Sierra Leone for a month overseeing CDC staff responsible for epidemiology, surveillance, contact tracing, health communications, infection control, laboratory testing and quarantine, as well as screening passengers on outgoing flights.

“The US-CDC team on the ground will have about 40 staff working on many areas, not only the patient care but almost every other area, the surveillance, the epidemiology, the house-to-house contact tracing, the infection control activities, the laboratory,” said Kilmarx.

He added that the team would be working hard to combat the spread of the epidemic. “The quarantine will have a comprehensive set of activities that CDC is supporting in Sierra Leone, working together with the government and other partners to try to put the break on this Ebola epidemic.”

According to CDC, an outbreak of Ebola has been ongoing in Sierra Leone since May 2014 and as of August 31, there were 1,216 suspected and confirmed cases, 476 confirmed deaths, and 1,107 laboratory confirmed cases in Sierra Leone.

To date, the U.S. government has spent more than $100 million to address this outbreak, including the purchase of personal protective equipment, mobile labs, logistics and relief commodities, and support for community health workers. USAID also has announced plans to make available up to $75 million in additional funding to increase the number of Ebola treatment units, provide more personal protective equipment, airlift additional medical and emergency supplies, and support other Ebola response activities in collaboration with the UN, including the World Health Organization, and international partners. The U.S continues to offer its support to combat the recent Ebola outbreaks and early this week President Barack Obama pledged to send 3,000 military personnel to West Africa as part of the administration’s stepped-up effort to address Ebola. The troops will oversee building of new treatment centers and help train medical staff.

Sierra Leone’s government has recently instituted enhanced measures to combat the spread of Ebola, many of which will likely make travel to, from, and within the country difficult.

“It has been a challenge having some of the airlines stopping providing services, so it has been difficult for health care workers to come in, it’s difficult to get some of the commodities in,” Kilmarx said.

CDC has more than 100 disease detectives on the ground in West Africa, supported by hundreds of public health emergency response experts stateside. CDC teams are deployed from the CDC 24/7 Emergency Operations Center (EOC), activated at Level 1, its highest level, because of the significance of this outbreak.

Since the outbreak the World Health Organisation has recorded about 2,000 deaths and over 3,000 infected people in West Africa.