CDC: End to Ebola not yet in sight

On the heels of a three-country tour across West Africa, one of the leaders of the United States’s response to Ebola is not ready to say the end to the epidemic is near.

Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said Monday that he can’t predict — and doesn’t think anyone can — when West Africa will see its last case of Ebola.

“I can only say that I remain hopeful that we will get to zero, but I remain realistic that the road is going to be long and hard,” he said. “There are clusters all over and new ones popping up all the times.”

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He described a meeting in Guinea with the head of Doctors Without Borders, where there are more patients than there are isolation beds.

Frieden also visited the hospital where Maryland resident Dr. Martin Salia worked before he died, describing empty wards of the hospital that previously treated patients for malaria and other diseases.

Until the last week, there has been a shortage of beds in Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone, where he said the effects of epidemic has been “horrific.”

Still, Frieden said he has noticed a “world of difference” compared to his last visit in September.

In his first update on Ebola in more than a month, Frieden hailed the work of hundreds of international groups and governments, which he said has formed a global partnership.

He also touted the $5.4 billion in emergency funding recently approved by Congress, which he said “allows us to move faster, allows us to do more and really see the possibility of an end of an epidemic more clearly in the future.”

More than 7,300 deaths have been reported from Ebola this year, according to figures this week from the World Health Organization.

Frieden’s return from West Africa coincided at the airport with Sen. Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsTrump got in Dem’s face over abortion at private meeting: report Live coverage: Trump delivers State of the Union Actor Chris Evans meets with Democratic senators before State of the Union MORE (D-Del.), who became the first member of Congress to visit the affected area this weekend.

In the U.S., Frieden said more than 5,000 people have been monitored after returning from West Africa. Eleven were referred for medical care, but none tested positive for Ebola.

Each person has been contacted by their health officials, including Frieden.

“I was contracted by my local health department, asking what my temperature was,” Frieden said.