ATLANTA: As the Ebola virus outbreak continues to worsen in West Africa, health organizations are ramping up their efforts to communicate information about the disease to the public.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, recently activated its Emergency Operations Center, with the Joint Information Center (JIC) acting as the agency’s communications mouthpiece.
Teams in the JIC work to keep audiences informed, including clinicians, state and local partners, policymakers, the public health workforce, and global partners, such as Doctors Without Borders, said David Daigle, associate director of communications for the CDC.
As of August 1, the World Health Organization reported that the Ebola virus has claimed more than 880 lives in West Africa since the outbreak began in March.
The CDC has ordered a Level 1 activation of its Emergency Operations Center, which is the CDC’s "full-up 24/7 activation for Ebola," said Daigle. Level 1 has not been reached since the H1N1, or Swine Flu, epidemic of 2009, he said.
Two individuals who contracted the disease in Africa were transported to the US for treatment, arriving separately this week. Both are being treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
Evacuating the two Ebola patients from Africa and bringing them to the US has taken an "all-government approach," enlisting agencies and departments like the Department of Defense, the State Department, and the Department of Homeland Security, he added.
No cases have been reported in the US, although three New York City hospitals are momentarily on alert, according to The New York Times.
Along with the CDC’s website and Twitter account, the agency has a Facebook page to share information. It will also continue to roll out advisory notices as necessary for specific individuals, such as healthcare workers, to notify them of what to do in the event that an Ebola patient is admitted to their hospital.
On Monday, the CDC held a Twitter chat to address concerns about Ebola. Daigle said negativity and confusion surrounding the Ebola patient being brought back to the US for treatment prompted the event. Using the hashtag #CDCchat, questions were answered and rumors were debunked with responses coming from five CDC-held Twitter handles.
Is there any cure or anything to prevent the ebola virus? There is no cure at the time. #CDCchat— CDC Emergency (@CDCemergency) August 4, 2014
.@petelasvegas Yes. Need close contact w/ infected person or body fluids to get the virus. 1/2— CDC (@CDCgov) August 4, 2014
.@petelasvegas Ebola infected people infectious for short time (days not years) so less opportunity for transmission than HIV infection. 2/2— CDC (@CDCgov) August 4, 2014
Daigle leaves for Nigeria on Wednesday to help with the crisis. He’s part of a push to get about 50 people "very quickly out there," he said. The CDC will focus on disease detective training, which entails tracing who a patient has had contact with and monitoring them for 21 days. Epidemiologists will lend their expertise to building databases, and public health educators will work on public affairs. It’s an "all-hands-on-deck" approach, said Daigle
The World Health Organization regularly updates information on its site, including details for travelers, frequently asked questions, and facts about what it’s doing in response to the crisis.
Last week, the organization announced a $100 million response plan in an effort to control the outbreak.
A WHO representative was not immediately available for comment.
The health organization has been keeping users updated on the outbreak through its Twitter:
#Ebola Outbreak Response Plan in West Africa identifies need for several hundred more personnel to be deployed in affected countries— WHO (@WHO) July 31, 2014