CDC Steps Up Response to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa

Dr. Pierre Rollin (L) and CDC Director Tom Frieden (R) discuss Rollin's work fighting Ebola in Guinea, West Africa. WABE was the only station invited to Wednesday's update.
Credit Lisa George/WABE

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stepped up its timetable for getting workers to West Africa to help fight the Ebola virus.

It now has its full planned complement of 50 staffers on the ground, which is two weeks ahead of schedule.

CDC Director Tom Frieden spoke today with one of the agency’s doctors who has just returned from three months of fighting Ebola in Guinea.

WABE was invited to share in the conversation with Dr. Pierre Rollin.

Frieden wanted to know what Rollin saw as his first job when he arrived in April.

Rollin: “I tried to organize and also bring some common sense and knowledge to the people. It was the first time [the first Ebola outbreak] for this country, so they had no idea what Ebola was.”

Frieden: “I heard from the [U.S.] Ambassador that you became something of a media star there. You were on the radio and TV regularly, and people really trusted you.”

Rollin: “I tried to pass the message: Ebola is scary for everybody, but it is more scare than real danger for most of the peoples.”

Rollin also worked to spread the word one-on-one. “If we pass the message that Ebola is transmitted by direct contact, we have to behave the same way,” said Rollin. “We cannot say that to the people and then showing up with full PPE [Personal Protection Equipment] when you go in the village because then you’re going to scare everybody.”

Rollin says he plans to be back in Guinea within the next few weeks. He says his first task this time will be to learn the burial practices; he says people burying their dead is one of the most prevalent ways Ebola is spreading. Rollin plans to devise a burial method that will incorporate needed health precautions and still comply with local religious practices.

You can hear Dr. Frieden and Dr. Rollin's entire conversation below (in two separate audio files).