Originally published September 30 2014
Ebola patients flood into new medical tents faster than U.S. military can build them
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) Reports in recent days have noted that the U.S. ground force that President Obama ordered into Ebola-infected West Africa has been making slow progress, but a more accurate description of their heroic efforts would be no progress.
Understand that is not the fault of the American troops; rather, it is simply the reality of the Ebola epidemic. The virus is spreading and killing faster than efforts to control and contain it, and now some are arguing that the force isn't big enough or comprehensive enough for the mission at hand.
As The Wall Street Journal (WSH) reported:
The American military effort against history's deadliest Ebola outbreak is taking shape in West Africa, but concerns are mounting that the pace isn't fast enough to check a virus that is spreading at a terrifying clip.
In recent days, a small number of sailors from the U.S. Navy's 133rd Mobile Construction Battalion (Seabees) led a bulldozer through tall grass outside the main airport in Liberia, the hardest-hit country, each of them sporting bottles of hand sanitizer, which were hanging from belt loops.
Earlier in the month, the unit was constructing a parking lot in the East African nation of Djibouti when they were redirected by AFRICOM -- the Pentagon's Africa Command -- to build the first of at least 12 tent hospitals that the U.S. has pledged to construct in the area. The troops began their hospital construction effort by bulldozing a downward slope for water runoff -- "to keep out any unwanted reptiles," Petty Officer Second Class Justin Holsinger told the WSJ.
Thousands have died so far
And while the small force works the earth, their officers are still negotiating details of the U.S. intervention there, and in particular, what roles U.S. forces will play beyond those few already specified.
Meanwhile, the spread of the Ebola virus appears to be quickening: the WSJ reported that, so far, 6,574 cases had been identified by Sept. 23, and of those, 3,091 had died of the disease. The fatalities are now more than double what they were just one month ago.
However, authorities and health officials caution that the reported number is likely far lower than the actual number of cases; in fact, they say actual cases could number three to four times the official count. If no aid at all had arrived in the region, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the number of cases in Liberia and neighboring Sierra Leone might have risen to 1.4 million by mid-January. And, actually, even with intervention, that might still happen, say some experts.
The WSJ also reported that the National Institutes of Health said it is gearing up to provide care to an American doctor who had been exposed to the virus while he was voluntarily providing Ebola care in Sierra Leone.
"There is no argument the disease is out in front of the response," Ken Isaacs, vice president of programs and government relations for Samaritan's Purse, told the WSJ.
Only 18 percent of those affected find hospital beds
Isaacs, an expert in humanitarian assistance and the leader of his organization's Ebola intervention efforts in Liberia, added, "Where we are today is where we should have been 60 to 90 days ago."
Some help is, of course, arriving; it has come in the rare, and perhaps unprecedented, form of U.S. military assistance. As the WSJ reports, the forces, for now, "will level swampy grassland, unload supplies and build tents, then train thousands of nurses from Sierra Leone and Liberia to treat Ebola."
Health officials say the epidemic in both countries will more than likely get worse until 70 percent of sickened patients can find a bed in a treatment center or other place where they can get care and not transmit the disease. As of this writing, only about 18 percent are able to, according to the CDC.
President Obama ordered 3,000 U.S. troops into West Africa to help combat the virus on September 16. Needless to say, it was not a universally accepted decision, especially by those who were ordered in.
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