Ebola surveillance teams fanned out today in Sierra Leone's capital of Freetown to search for sick people, as the president imposed new restrictions on movement and gatherings in a bid to stop the disease's spread. President Ernest Bai Koroma launched "Operation Western Area Surge" in a national broadcast, promising that treatment beds, labs, and ambulances are ready to handle new cases. He reiterated that Christmas and New Year's celebrations are canceled and also banned public gatherings during the holidays and movement between districts. "I know that this is the festive season where Sierra Leoneans often celebrate with families in a flamboyant and joyous manner, but all must be reminded that our country is at war with a vicious enemy," he said.
Sierra Leone has repeatedly quarantined hot spots and once locked down the entire country to ferret out the sick, but infections continue to rise and the disease is now whipping around Freetown and its surroundings. Ebola has sickened around 18,500 people. But infection rates have begun to stabilize or decline in Guinea and Liberia, the other two countries hit hard by Ebola. Still, Tom Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a visit to the country that there is no need to send US troops to Sierra Leone. American troops are building treatment centers in Liberia, while British troops are helping in Sierra Leone. "The fight is going to be long and hard to get to zero cases, which requires individuals to come forward," said Frieden. (Read more Sierra Leone stories.)