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US Officials Report Progress in Fighting Ebola

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Health workers rest outside a quarantine zone at a Red Cross facility in the town of Koidu, Kono district in Eastern Sierra Leone December 19, 2014. (REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
Health workers rest outside a quarantine zone at a Red Cross facility in the town of Koidu, Kono district in Eastern Sierra Leone December 19, 2014. (REUTERS/Baz Ratner)

American health officials are reporting progress against the disease Ebola in West Africa. Tom Frieden is head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"This has been a, a devastating epidemic and it's been unique. It is the world's first epidemic of Ebola, and it has stretched the world systems and taught us what more we need to do."

Dr. Frieden spoke last week in Washington, D.C. He noted that Ebola was first reported in Guinea about a year ago. He said the epidemic could have been prevented if medical workers and government officials in West Africa were better prepared.

"If a year ago we had had surveillance systems in the forest region where the disease emerged, it's quite possible that we could have responded quickly and ended the outbreak long ago, before so many lives and so much devastation happened."

In the past few weeks, the number of new cases reported has dropped to less than ten a day in Liberia and Sierra Leone. A few weeks ago there were 30 or 40 new cases every day. Dr. Frieden said West African nations -- especially Guinea -- must keep fighting the spread of Ebola.

"Guinea has come close to controlling it on two different occasions and maybe they got a little bit lax, they dropped the ball a bit, and it came roaring back. That importance of following every single case until we get to zero is absolutely essential."

Dr. Frieden said even a single Ebola case could cause the disease to spread to other countries.

Congresswoman Betty McCollum is the co-chair of the U.S. Congressional Global Health Caucus. She said it is clear now that what happens in one country does not always stay within the borders of that country.

"We need to work together internationally to set up better global surveillance, not just for when it's happening or after it's happening, but before it happens, right? We live in an interconnected world."

Representative Karen Baas is on the House Foreign Affairs Subommittee for Africa, Global Health, and Global Human Rights. She says people are still being affected by Ebola, even if the media is not reporting on the health crisis. She says the lack of reporting does not mean the crisis has ended.

There have been more than 21,000 reported Ebola cases in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. More than 8,000 people have died.

I'm Christopher Cruise.

VOA Correspondent Mariama Diallo reported this story from Washington. Christopher Cruise wrote it for VOA Learning English. George Grow edited the story.

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Words in This Story

epidemic n. an occurrence in which a disease spreads very quickly and affects a large number of people

stretched v. to require (someone) to use a lot of effort, ability or skill in order to succeed

surveillance n. the act of carefully watching someone or something especially in order to prevent or detect a crime

region n. a part of a country or the world that is different or separate from other parts in some way

emerge v. to become known or apparent

outbreak n. a sudden start or increase of fighting or disease

devastation n. the destruction of much or most of (something)

bit n. a little; somewhat or rather

lax adj. not careful enough; not strict enough

dropped the ball idiom to make a mistake; to fail in some way

it came roaring back idiom to forcefully return after a period of weakness

absolutely adv. often used to make a statement more forceful

essential adj. extremely important and necessary

set up idiom to put something together; to create

Has Ebola affected you or your country? Do you believe your government is prepared for a sudden spread of Ebola? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the comments section.

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