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Operation United Assistance - Ebola 2014

The United States is sending 3,000 troops to Liberia, the nation worst hit by Ebola, to help with training medical workers, coordinating supplies and building new treatment facilities. Other countries are donating medical supplies to try to contain what one public health official called a ferocious epidemic. Liberia is the country worst affected by the Ebola crisis, and the trends in the rates of infection and death suggest that the crisis is deepening. Since the first case of the Ebola virus was reported in March 2014, the virus spread quickly, particularly since July, to cover most of the country.

The 2014 outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease2 in West Africa has taken a horrible human toll. Although the outbreak originated in rural Guinea, it has hit hardest in Liberia and Sierra Leone, in part because it has reached urban areas in these two countries, a factor that distinguished this outbreak from previous episodes elsewhere. As of September 10, 2014, there had been 2,281 recorded deaths out of 4,614 suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola. Experts fear that the true numbers may be two to four times larger, due to underreporting. Misery and suffering have been intense, especially in Liberia where doctors have had to turning patients away for lack of space in Ebola treatment centers.

The United States is ready to take leadership for a global response to the deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa, President Barack Obama said 16 September 2014, as he announced plans to send thousands of US troops to the region. Faced with this outbreak, the world is looking to us, the United States, and its a responsibility that we embrace, we are prepared to take leadership on this, to provide the type of capabilities that only America has and mobilize our resources in ways that only America can do, he said.

Under the US plan, 3,000 US troops would be sent to a new command center in Liberia's capital, Monrovia, to help with the transportation of supplies and other personnel. US forces would construct 17 health care facilities of 100 beds each to isolate and treat victims. The US mission would also set up a facility to train 500 health care workers per week.

The number of people infected could grow to tens or even hundreds of thousands, Obama warned, if the outbreak isnt stopped now. That would mean profound political and economic and security implications for all of us, he said. This is an epidemic that is not just a threat to regional security, its a threat to global security if these countries break down, if their economics break down, if people panic. And that has a profound effect on all of us, even if we are not directly contracting the disease.

The World Bank Group warned 17 September 2014 that the West Africa Ebola crisis could deal a huge economic blow to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone unless swift action is taken. The analysis estimates the short-term impact on output to be 2.1 percentage points of GDP in Guinea (reducing growth from 4.5 percent to 2.4 percent); 3.4 percentage points in Liberia (reducing growth from 5.9 percent to 2.5 percent); and 3.3 percentage points in Sierra Leone (reducing growth from 11.3 percent to 8 percent). This forgone output corresponds to $359 million in 2014 prices. However, if Ebola is not contained, these estimates rise to $809 million in the three countries alone. In Liberia, the hardest hit country, the High Ebola scenario sees output hit 11.7 percentage points in 2015 (reducing growth from 6.8 percent to -4.9 percent).

Inflation and food prices were initially contained but by September 2014 were rising in response to shortages, panic buying, and speculation. Those families already vulnerable to food price shocks were becoming increasingly exposed. Exchange rate volatility has increased in all three countries, particularly since June 2014, fueled by uncertainty and some capital flight. The largest economic effects of the crisis are not as a result of the direct costs (mortality, morbidity, caregiving, and the associated losses to working days) but rather those resulting from aversion behavior driven by fear of contagion. This in turn leads to a fear of association with others and reduces labor force participation, closes places of employment, disrupts transportation, and motivates some government and private decision-makers to close sea ports and airports.

The international community mobilized thousands of personnel and poured billions of dollars into an Americana-led effort to control the Ebola outbreak, which the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says could infect 550,000 to 1.4 million people by January 2015 if nothing is done.

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said October 13, 2014 Ebola posed a threat to the governments and societies of West Africa. Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the WHO, said that she has "never seen an infectious disease contribute so strongly to potential state failure."

Liberia had endured the largest number of Ebola infections of any country, according to the World Health Organization as of October 13, 2014, with 4,076 confirmed cases as of October 8. The virus has killed at least 2,316, including 95 health workers out of 201 infected. The regional outbreak had infected almost 8,400 people and killed more than 4,000.

People become infected with Ebola by coming into contact with the contaminated bodily fluids, primarily blood and saliva, of infected individuals. As the Ebola epidemic continues to spread unchecked in western Africa, fears are beginning to emerge that the virus could mutate and the disease could become airborne. As the number of people infected with Ebola has soared in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria and Senegal -- with more than half of the estimated 4,300 cases resulting in death -- some infectious disease specialists have expressed concern the disease could acquire a new, more terrifying mode of transmission -- through inhalation, much like the common flu bug. Some experts say the chances are remote, though, that Ebola could spread from person-to-person through the air. Rarely does a virus mutate to the point that it changes how it spreads from person to person.

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