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Operation United Assistance - Ebola 2014

The United States sent nearly 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 donated medical supplies to try to contain what one public health official called a “ferocious” epidemic. Liberia was 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.

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.

The 2014 outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease in West Africa took 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 was 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 it’s 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 isn’t 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, it’s 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 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.

Some projections showed a total of 700,000 people in West Africa will have been infected by the time the epidemic is under control, and, of those, 60 to 70 percent will die. Of the three countries in West Africa afflicted by the Ebola virus, Liberia has been hit the worst. Without greater efforts, in just this one area more than 170,000 people will get Ebola and, of that number, more than 90,000 will die by mid-December 2014. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta released a new model for the spread of the deadly virus in September 2014. Its worst-case scenario estimated that up to 1.4 million people could be infected by the end of January 2015. If control efforts were stepped up in a truly dramatic fashion and prove a stunning success, however, the epidemic could be almost over by that time.

Liberian officials and the World Health Organization said November 03, 2014 the number of new Ebola cases in Liberia appeared to be falling but that it’s too soon to be sure. Liberia had been the hardest hit by this regional epidemic with approximately half the total cases and deaths. Ebola had killed at least 2,413 people in Liberia since April. Some experts have suggested it could kill tens of thousands more by year’s end. However, health authorities there said that over the previous two weeks the rate of infection appeared to be dropping slowly.

On 07 November 2014 the US and Liberian governments opened a 25-bed Ebola treatment unit outside Monrovia to treat health workers infected with the virus. Providing high-quality care is considered key to recruiting local Liberian staff and persuading much-needed Western health workers to come battle the Ebola epidemic. It took the US military five weeks to transform a swampy field outside Monrovia into an Ebola field hospital, built and stocked according to Médecins Sans Frontières and World Health Organization guidelines. The air-conditioned medical unit has 25 beds and is staffed by 70 officers from the US Public Health Service. It is the first Ebola treatment unit, or ETU, built specifically for health workers.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said 01 Decembe 2014 Liberia wrongly added 1,000 deaths to the organization's official Ebola toll. The WHO redacted the data, and a new set of figures showed Liberia with a death toll of 3,145 out of 7,635 cases, as of November 28. Data published at the weekend placed the number of Liberian deaths at 4,181.

In Liberia at the peak of the outbreak, there were 119 confirmed cases per week, and today there were 3 confirmed new cases by the week of by 11 February 2015. Of those afflicted by the deadly virus, Liberia, where about 4,000 people had died, was seen as the most advanced in curbing the disease's spread.

Of the 2,800 troops deployed, by 11 February 2015 approximately 1,500 were already back in the United States, and nearly all of those remaining were to return home by April 30. on 27 February 2015 the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) cased its colors during a ceremony yesterday at the Barclay Training Center here, marking the end of Operation United Assistance for the Joint Forces Command - United Assistance, or JFC-UA. OUA would continue after April 30 with a complement of approximately 100 DoD personnel who, leveraging an already strong military-to-military partnership with the Armed Forces of Liberia and other regional partners.

Seven months after the Ebola outbreak turned Liberia upside down, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf came to Washington on 26 February 2015 to say thanks to a country she said did so much. "You did not run from Liberia. ... With many of our global challenges, America stood up and America stood with us," she told a Capitol Hill audience.

At the height of the Ebola crisis, social life in Liberia was at a standstill, as people tried to avoid touching to keep themselves from catching the deadly virus. With new Ebola cases down to zero by March 2015, Liberians returned to popular beaches and nightclubs. People are glad social life returned, even though the worries had not entirely faded away.

Liberia was declared Ebola-free on 09 May 2015. It had been 42 days since the country’s last known case of the deadly virus. In total, this regional epidemic infected 26,593 people, killing just over 11,000. Four thousand, seven hundred and sixteen people were believed to have died of Ebola in Liberia since the virus jumped over the Guinean border 14 months earlier. That was the highest death toll of any country in this regional outbreak.

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Page last modified: 10-05-2015 19:40:18 ZULU