- The Washington Times - Monday, December 22, 2014

Sen. Chris Coons, the first member of Congress to visit the Ebola outbreak’s epicenter in West Africa, reported Monday that U.S. aid is helping Liberia bring its transmission rates under control, but that continued global support is crucial to stamping out the virus before it slips through the country’s porous borders and flares up again.

Mr. Coons, the senior Democrat on the Senate’s subcommittee on African affairs, traveled to Liberia on Thursday and is expected to return on Tuesday. While there, he met with U.S. military personnel and aid workers on the front lines of the epidemic to highlight the crisis, show it is safe to engage with people there and to press for more aid to the region.

“It is a ferocious disease that still poses a threat to the region and the world,” the Delaware Democrat said in a conference call with reporters.

The Ebola outbreak has resulted in nearly 7,400 deaths, with more than 3,300 of them in Liberia, and most of the rest coming in Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

President Obama has dedicated more than 2,000 troops to Liberia, which has close historical ties to America, while Britain and France have taken the lead in their former colonies of Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Transmission continues to rage in those countries, particularly Sierra Leone, and Mr. Coons warned that vigilance at the border is key to avoid flare-ups in Liberia.

Liberia cannot be Ebola free and secure until Guinea and Sierra Leone are as well,” he said.

The U.S. has spent $770 million so far in the three countries, and Congress recently approved $5.4 billion of the $6.2 billion Mr. Obama requested for anti-Ebola efforts at home and abroad.

Mr. Coons detailed the safety protocols he followed in his trip, including washing his hands with chlorine and elbow-bumping people instead of shaking hands.

“It’s very uncomfortable to be in church and not shake anyone’s hand, to not give anyone a hug,” he said.

His trip is considered low-risk because he is not interacting with actual Ebola patients or the people treating them. But he said when he returns, he will follow the protocols and self-report his temperature daily until the 21-day incubation for the disease has passed, and will quarantine himself if he shows symptoms.

In his travels, Mr. Coons thanked military members in person for their logistical aid to the fight, met with nongovernment agencies and got a brief look at the country’s closely watched senate elections over the weekend, which had former soccer star George Weah and the president’s son, Robert Sirleaf, vying for seats.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is wrapping up his own tour of the affected region, signaled it might be time to think about what will happen when the region emerges from its battle with Ebola.

“While our immediate priority is to stop the spread of the disease, it is not too early to start thinking about recovery,” Mr. Ban said. “We must scale up our efforts to restore basic social services, strengthen health services, support economic activity and build up the countries’ resilience.”

Britain and France have taken the lead in their former colonies of Sierra Leone and Guinea. Transmission continues to rage in those countries, particularly Sierra Leone, and Mr. Coons warned that vigilance at the border is key to avoid flare-ups in Liberia.

Liberia cannot be Ebola free and secure until Guinea and Sierra Leone are as well,” he said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide