CDC releases comprehensive history of Ebola response: 5 things to know

On Thursday, the CDC published a detailed history of the agency's response to the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic in the most recent edition of the agency's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The report comes on the second anniversary of the official activation of the CDC's emergency response to the outbreak.

The new report primarily focused on the first year and a half of the CDC's response. During that period, the CDC worked simultaneously to control the proliferation of Ebola in West Africa and bolster Ebola preparedness domestically.

Here are five things to know about the Ebola outbreak and the CDC's response:

1. The epidemic: Though the agency had previously responded to approximately 20 Ebola outbreaks since 1976 and had sufficient understanding about the disease, addressing the outbreak proved challenging. The epidemic was the largest Ebola outbreak in history, claiming the lives of more than 11,300 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and brought about the first known transmission of Ebola from person to person on U.S. soil.

2. The response: The CDC response to the Ebola epidemic was the largest such response in the agency's history. Approximately 4,000 CDC employees directly took part in the response, including nearly 2,000 of which who were sent abroad to the African nations hardest hit by the epidemic. Teams consisted of specialists in epidemiology, infection control, laboratory analysis, medical care, emergency management, information technology, health communication, behavioral science, anthropology, logistics, planning and other areas of expertise.

3. Collaboration: The CDC worked with local governments and partner organizations to sever the pathways of local transmission. The agency provided more than 24,000 healthcare workers with infection control training. The CDC worked with other laboratory response teams to expedite diagnostic capabilities and assisted each Ministry of Health for Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea in the development of border and airport screening programs.

4. Ebola in the U.S.: The arrival of Ebola in the U.S. garnered intense media attention. It began with a case in one traveler who died in Dallas. After laboratory confirmation of Ebola in the Dallas patient, the CDC created expert response teams to be disseminated anywhere in the U.S. where assistance was needed. The agency also worked closely with other government organizations to screen and track travelers that could have been exposed to the disease. Nearly 30,000 people were monitored.

5. Lessons learned: The Ebola outbreak highlighted the importance of developing effective preventative systems in regions vulnerable to outbreaks to stifle infectious disease threats prior to becoming epidemics. The global health emergency also highlighted the need for stronger international coalitions capable of quick and profound action when nations become overwhelmed by an outbreak. Additionally, the crisis called attention to the importance of improving infection prevention measures in healthcare settings.

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