On Tuesday, President Barack Obama is expected to announce that he will be sending 3,000 U.S. military personnel to Liberia in an attempt to help stem the growing Ebola crisis that has already claimed thousands of lives and decimated entire communities in west Africa.
However, public health officials say that the response may amount to 'too little, too late' as new estimates reveal potentially hundreds of thousands may be infected by the end of the year. As the delay in action by the international community has caused the virus to completely overtake the capacity of the public health systems in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, officials warn that the crisis has grown to a level "unparalleled in modern times."
"The nature of response is so far behind the virus, so far behind the scale of need, that it's almost impossible to quantify how we really do need to respond," Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations, told Democracy Now! on Monday. As Garrett explains, local hospitals are so completely overfull that "people are literally dying on the sidewalks and in the dirt roads outside the hospitals."
Because of this, she says, most of the people who contract the disease are being treated at home, causing the disease to spread exponentially. She estimates that total number of those infected may be threefold official estimates, and are likely "in the neighborhood of 12,000 to 15,000 cumulative cases."
According to the World Health Organization's latest figures, 2,461 have been killed and 4,985 diagnosed with the deadly virus.
"We either find a way to mobilize on a scale unprecedented in modern time for epidemic response," Garrett continued, "or we will be looking at something like a quarter-million cases by Christmas."