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Scientists in US Fight Ebola Outbreak

FILE - U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials join a conference call about Ebola with CDC team members deployed in West Africa from the agency's Emergency Operations Center, Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014.

Thousands of kilometers from the West African communities hit hardest by Ebola, scientists in the United States are working to stop the outbreak.

At the Emergency Operations Center at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, workers have been tracking Ebola for months. They provide critical information to the CDC staff and others in the field, including the World Health Organization and governments in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the heart of the Ebola epidemic.

"CDC has been on the ground for every Ebola response,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, the head of the CDC, who visited countries in Ebola's epicenter in late summer. “And I personally assured each of the countries that we would be there with them until it was over."

Information empowers

CDC communications specialists help countries spread the word on how to stay safe and what to do if someone has a fever, one of the first warning sign of Ebola virus.

In the Ebola-affected countries, radio broadcasts warn about the virus. Billboards proclaim that Ebola is real. The CDC doesn't send doctors to care for the patients. Instead, it trains health care workers in impacted nations to do it safely.

"CDC is working in every aspect of the response in every country where the epidemic is present,” Frieden said in an interview with VOA. “We’re helping patients get tested accurately. We’re helping track the epidemic. We’re helping countries improve the way they’re responding to it. And we’re helping to figure out what we can do to get ahead of it."

While early care dramatically increases survival rates, there aren't enough treatment centers in West Africa, and many people are turned away, left to wait or die outside. Frieden said building more treatment centers and getting people into them is the key to stopping the epidemic.

"Time is absolutely of the essence,” he said. “An action that is pretty good today is way better than an action that is great a week from today. It’s that urgent."

In September, the CDC issued a stunning projection: that more than 1 million people could get the virus by January if immediate action isn't taken to end the epidemic.