The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a detailed account of the agency’s work on the largest, longest outbreak response in the agency’s history: the Ebola epidemic of 2014-2016. The series of articles, in a special supplement to CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), comes on the second anniversary of the official activation of the agency’s emergency response to Ebola.
“The Ebola epidemic in West Africa killed thousands and directly or indirectly harmed millions of people living in the region,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “The resilience of those affected; the hard work by ministries of health and international partners; and the dedication, hard work, and expertise of mission-driven CDC employees helped avoid a global catastrophe. We must work to ensure that a preventable outbreak of this magnitude never happens again.”
The full MMWR Supplement on the response to the 2014-2016 Ebola virus disease epidemic and related information on the individual chapters available at http://go.usa.gov/x3ASd.
The 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic was the first and largest epidemic of its kind, with widespread urban transmission and a massive death count of more than 11,300 people in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The epidemic took a devastating toll on the people of West Africa. Ending it took an extraordinary international effort in which the U.S. government played a major role.
CDC’s response was directed simultaneously at controlling the epidemic in West Africa and strengthening preparedness for Ebola in the United States. The new MMWR Ebola special supplement primarily focuses on the agency’s work during the first year and a half of the response. CDC activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for the Ebola response on July 9, 2014. On August 5, 2014, CDC elevated the EOC to a Level 1 activation, its highest level. On March 31, 2016, CDC officially deactivated the EOC for the 2014-2016 Ebola response.
“The world came together in an unprecedented way—nations, organizations, and individuals—to respond to this horrible epidemic,” said Inger Damon, M.D., Ph.D., who served as incident manager for the CDC Ebola response during its first eight months. “CDC staff performed heroically and were an integral part of the U.S. all-government response, which involved many other agencies and branches of government.”
By the end of the CDC 2014-2016 Ebola response on March 31, 2016, more than 3,700 CDC staff, including all 158 Epidemic Intelligence Service Officers, had participated in international or domestic response efforts. There were 2,292 total deployments to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone and 3,544 total deployments overall (domestic and international) to support the response. Approximately 1,558 CDC responders have deployed to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone since the start of the response in July 2014 to the close of the response at the end of March 2016 – including 454 responders with repeat deployments. Even after the deactivation of the CDC 2014-2016 Ebola response, CDC continues its work to better understand and combat the Ebola virus and to assist Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in the aftermath of the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic; currently, CDC staff remain in CDC country offices in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone to help support the Global Health Security Agenda.
Experience responding to approximately 20 Ebola outbreaks since 1976 provided CDC and other international responders with an understanding of the disease and how to stop its spread. But unlike those shorter, self-limited outbreaks, the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic in West Africa presented new and formidable challenges.
“This outbreak is a case study in why the Global Health Security Agenda is so important,” said Beth Bell, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases. “By the time the world understood there was an outbreak, it was already widespread – and had ignited the world’s first urban Ebola epidemic, with devastating results.”
This supplement tells the story of CDC’s contributions and shows the importance of partnerships among the international community. Some of the key CDC key activities detailed in this supplement include:
“This outbreak highlighted how much more we have to learn about Ebola, and it demonstrated that all countries are connected. An outbreak in one country is not just a national emergency, but a global one. This supplement’s detailed review of the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic and CDC’s response, with many partners, shows the importance of preparedness. It is vital that countries are ready to quickly detect and respond to infectious disease outbreaks, and the international community is committed to increasing that readiness through the Global Health Security Agenda,” Dr. Frieden said. “Through our newly established country offices in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, CDC will continue to help West Africa prevent an outbreak of this magnitude from happening again.”