Washington - Health workers on the front line of the Ebola crisis say the need for urgent help isn't letting up, as Congress begins considering President Barack Obama's $6.2 billion emergency aid request to fight the disease.
Despite reports that the number of infections is slowing in some parts of West Africa, cases still are rising in other areas — and aid organizations say thousands of health care workers are needed to treat Ebola patients over the next few months.
"We're not yet at a point where we can have confidence that we're turning the corner, even in Liberia," said Andy Gleadle of the International Medical Corps, which is running a treatment center in Liberia and plans to open another in that country and two more in Sierra Leone.
Even if Obama were to give us millions of dollars tomorrow, "it takes weeks to absorb that funding and implement it on the ground," added Gleadle, who is responsible for the charity's response in Sierra Leone.
Also read: Dangote to support Ebola fight with $3m
On Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee was to question Obama administration officials about the U.S. response to the Ebola outbreak as it begins evaluating the emergency aid request. It includes $4.64 billion in immediate spending to fight the epidemic in West Africa, shore up U.S. preparedness, and speed the development and testing of Ebola vaccines and treatments.
More than $1.5 billion would be for a contingency fund to deal with any unexpected developments.
"The situation does change quite dramatically from one day to the next, one week to the next," Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told The Associated Press.
The hearing comes even as Ebola is fading from U.S. headlines.
The last Ebola patient being treated in the U.S. — a doctor who was diagnosed after returning from a volunteer stint fighting the virus in Guinea — was released from a New York City hospital Tuesday. His fiancee remains in quarantine at their apartment, and New York officials continue to monitor health workers who cared for him as well as other recent travelers from West Africa.
That "doesn't mean we're out of the woods," Frieden cautioned. Until the epidemic is ended in West Africa, "there is still the real possibility that other people with Ebola will be diagnosed in the U.S."