As Ebola Wanes, US Clinics Become Ghost Towns

Treatment centers in Liberia were built on worst-case scenario that never happened
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 19, 2015 8:39 AM CST
As Ebola Wanes, US Clinics Become Ghost Towns
Health workers wearing Ebola protective gear remove the body of a man that they suspect died from the Ebola virus, at a USAID treatment center near Monrovia, Liberia, Nov. 28, 2014.   (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has shrunk dramatically, with an average of fewer than one new case reported each day last week. Nowhere is the drastic improvement more clear than in the many treatment centers the US has built in Liberia. They're full of empty beds, and some haven't hosted a single patient, the Washington Post reports. "If they had been built when we needed them, it wouldn't have been too much," says a Liberian official. "But they were too late" for most of the 8,300 in the country who suffered from the disease. That doesn't mean, however, the US made the wrong move in building the centers, American officials say.

"A lot of people are evaluating the strategy based on what we know today, not what we knew at the time," says the leading US military officer in Liberia. Indeed, just a few months ago, the CDC was warning of a possible 1.4 million Ebola victims in the region. Now the country is hoping to be entirely rid of the disease by the end of next month, Reuters reports, and the WHO has reported shrinking numbers across Guinea and Sierra Leone, too. As for what brought about the decline, there's no "silver bullet," the officer says. "My argument is it's the whole strategy," which included treatment centers, behavioral changes, and isolation of potentially contagious people, the Post notes. (One survivor leaving Liberia was even quarantined over infectious semen.)

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