Ebola is spreading with such speed that it could become a global pandemic to rival AIDS if action isn’t taken now, one of the U.S.’s top health officials has warned.
“In the 30 years I’ve been working public health, the only thing like this has been AIDS, and we have to work now so that this is not the world’s next AIDS,” Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday.
Frieden spoke at a conference at the World Bank in Washington D.C. Those in attendance included a group of African leaders from countries where the virus has spread.
“Speed is the most important variable here,” Frieden said. “This is controllable and this was preventable. It’s preventable by investing in core public health services, both in the epicenter of the most affected countries, in the surrounding countries, and in other countries that might be affected.”
The World Health Organization released a report on Wednesday that noted six countries — five in West Africa and the United States — that had been affected. The report notes, however, that the information they used was only accurate through Oct. 5, and just this week there was a confirmed case of Ebola in Spain when a nurse tested positive for the disease. That brings the number of affected countries to seven.
The WHO report said the three countries with the worst situation were Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, which all have widespread and intense transmission. Representatives from those three countries were all present at the meeting when Frieden spoke.
According to the WHO report, there had been 3,865 deaths as of Oct. 5 out of 8,033 confirmed cases. Those figures represents a 48 percent fatality rate.
The death of Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who was diagnosed and later died from Ebola in Dallas, was not included in those numbers. His death on Wednesday marked the first time someone in America had died from the disease.