The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning against nonessential travel to three West African countries today as the death toll from the Ebola outbreak on the continent has reached 729. The travel advisory applies to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, and it’s the first level 3 travel warning — the CDC’s most serious — during a disease outbreak since 2003, when SARS was killing hundreds in Asia.
“This is the biggest and most complex Ebola outbreak in history. Far too many lives have been lost already,” said CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden. The World Health Organization is also stepping up its response to the outbreak, announcing plans today for a $100 million effort to fight the “persistent threat” of the contagious disease in Africa. The CDC continues to insist the chances of Ebola making its way to the U.S. are slim.
As the Peace Corps pulls volunteers from the three countries and at least one American patient is treated with an “experimental serum,” the governments of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone are stepping up efforts to stop the spread. In Sierra Leone, all public meetings were banned and in Liberia schools were closed. Both countries have declared a state of emergency as houses are searched for undiagnosed patients and the government is considering putting some neighborhoods under quarantine.
In the search for a silver lining in this story, there’s this: Ebola typically has a mortality rate of 90 percent. In this outbreak, it’s around 60 percent.