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CDC Issues Highest Alert Response Over Ebola Outbreak

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In this handout from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), a colorized transmission electron micrograph (TEM) of a Ebola virus virion is seen. (credit: Center for Disease Control (CDC) via Getty Images)

In this handout from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), a colorized transmission electron micrograph (TEM) of a Ebola virus virion is seen. (credit: Center for Disease Control (CDC) via Getty Images)

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ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta/AP) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued its highest alert activation over the Ebola outbreak.

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden announced on Twitter Wednesday that their operations center has moved to a Level 1 response.

“@CDCEmergency Ops Center moved to Level 1 response to Ebola outbreak given the extension to Nigeria & potential to affect many lives,” Frieden tweeted.

The CDC previously issued Level 1 responses in 2009 for the bird flu outbreak and the Hurricane Katrina aftermath in 2005.

“As Ebola outbreak escalates in West Africa, CDC is doing all that we can to cointain it and prevent further spread,” the agency tweeted.

The CDC added: “The spread of Ebola in West Africa so far shows us how difficult this outbreak will be to control – but we can control it.”

More than 930 people have died during the Ebola outbreak, while there have been more than 1,700 suspected and confirmed cases.

During Wednesday’s U.S.-Africa Summit, President Barack Obama stated that the deadly disease can be controlled.

“What we do know is that the Ebola virus, both currently and in the past, is controllable if you have a strong public health infrastructure in place,” Obama said.

Obama continued: “The countries that have been affected are the first to admit that what’s happened here is that their public health systems have been overwhelmed. They weren’t able to identify and then isolate cases quickly enough. You did not have a strong trust relationship between some of the communities that were affected and public health workers. As a consequence, it spread more rapidly than has been typical with the periodic Ebola outbreaks that have occurred previously.”

Nigerian health authorities acknowledged Tuesday that they did not immediately quarantine a sick airline passenger who later died of Ebola, announcing that eight health workers who had direct contact with him were now in isolation with symptoms of the disease.

The outbreak, which emerged in March, spread to Nigeria in late July when Patrick Sawyer, a 40-year-old American of Liberian descent, flew from Liberia’s capital to the megacity of Lagos. The announcement that Sawyer was not immediately quarantined underscores concerns that West Africa is ill-equipped to contain such a disease.

Initially authorities told reporters that the risk of any exposure to others was minimal because Sawyer was whisked into isolation after arriving at the airport with symptoms of Ebola.

But Lagos state health commissioner Jide Idris said Tuesday that the nature of his disease “was not known” the first day, and only after further investigation did they suspect Ebola. Sawyer’s sister had died in Liberia from the disease, which has no proven cure or treatment.

“They went back to the history and they were like ‘Oh, this is Liberia,’ and that’s why he was put into isolation,” he told reporters. “So even in that window period it was possible that some of these people got infected.”

A doctor who cared for Sawyer has tested positive for the disease, and seven other health workers are now showing symptoms and have been placed in isolation. They are among 14 people who had “serious direct contact” with Sawyer, most of them at the hospital, Idris said. Authorities say they are also following the conditions of 56 other people who had “primary contact” with Sawyer — presumably less at risk than those in the first group.

The New York Times reports that the World Health Organization may decide by Friday whether to declare an international public health emergency.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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