- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Liberia’s leader pleaded with U.S. officials Wednesday not to let up in the fight against Ebola, saying that while American support is adequate right now to combat the disease in her country, flare-ups may occur and she wants the focus to shift from treatment to prevention.

In unique testimony by video stream, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf thanked Congress for the aid the U.S. has committed to combat a disease that’s killed more than 3,000 of her citizens and reversed public and economic progress after years of civil war, but she warned more may be needed.

“We are now in the most critical stage of response,” she told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The Ebola outbreak has killed more than 6,300 people in West Africa, and roughly half of those deaths have been in Liberia, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ebola has wreaked havoc on its economy, exposed weaknesses in its public health system and instilled fear that at times is “more destructive than Ebola itself,” Ms. Sirleaf told the committee’s panel on African affairs.

“It sprung on us at the worst of times,” she said.

Governments and nonprofits from around the world have committed resources to the fight, although mismanagement, hands-on burial rites and misconceptions about the disease have hampered the effort.

Mr. Obama committed up to 3,000 troops to the fight against Ebola in Liberia, a nation founded in its modern form by freed 19th-century American slaves. He also requested $6.2 billion in emergency funding from Congress to fight Ebola at home and abroad, although lawmakers announced late Tuesday they plan to authorize just $5.4 billion of his request.

Transmission has declined in Liberia but remains rampant in Sierra Leone and has stabilized in Guinea, according to international trackers.

Britain and France have taken the anti-Ebola lead in, respectively, Sierra Leone and Guinea, each being one of its former colonies.

Ms. Sirleaf testified shortly after Time magazine announced Wednesday that Ebola aid workers would be named 2014 Person of the Year — a decision Mr. Obama fully endorsed.

“The administration, including the president, could not be prouder of the brave men and women who’ve committed themselves to this effort in a foreign land,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.

Time editor Nancy Gibbs said the workers are selfless saviors in the fight against the deadly virus, which haunted Africa like a “mythic monster” for years before it exploded into a full-scale outbreak this year.

“The rest of the world can sleep at night because a group of men and women are willing to stand and fight,” she wrote in an article posted on the magazine’s website.

Many health and aid workers, including several Americans, have contracted the disease, and even those who survive have been called upon to continue the fight.

An article published this week in the International Journal of Epidemiology argued people who have overcome Ebola are crucial weapons in the West African mission, primarily because they have developed immunity to the current strain.

They also can donate blood full of antibodies to infected persons, and they tend to speak local languages and appreciate the cultural dynamics in affected areas.

“Survivors of Ebola infection,” the authors wrote, “are valuable resources still largely overlooked in the struggle to contain the epidemic.”

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