The Obama administration told Congress Wednesday that a $6.2 billion emergency aid request to fight Ebola is crucial to tackling the epidemic in West Africa and preventing it at home, and to continue the training of 250,000 U.S. nurses and other health workers in how to safely handle any infected patients who arrive in this country.
“These resources are essential to stop the outbreak in Africa, and protect us,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday began evaluating the request, which includes $4.64 billion in immediate spending to fight the outbreak abroad, shore up U.S. preparedness, and speed the development and testing of Ebola vaccines and treatments.
More than $1.5 billion would be for a contingency fund to deal with any unexpected developments, such as if Ebola begins spreading in another country neighboring the hardest-hit Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
While there currently are no reported Ebola cases in the U.S., Wednesday’s hearing came amid some sobering news. The World Health Organization reported that more than 5,000 people have died in the Ebola outbreak. And while the number of infections is slowing in some parts of West Africa, WHO said cases still are surging in Sierra Leone. Worse, neighboring Mali on Wednesday reported three deaths linked to Ebola.
“We’re not yet at a point where we can have confidence that we’re turning the corner, even in Liberia,” said Andy Gleadle of the International Medical Corps, which is running a treatment center in Liberia and plans to open another in that country and two more in Sierra Leone.