US-built Ebola treatment centers reportedly sit empty in Liberia

Several treatment centers built by U.S. troops and meant to receive Ebola patients are sitting empty or nearly empty in the West African country of Liberia, according to a published report.

The Washington Post reports that the worst of the deadly outbreak appeared to have passed before the first treatment centers were even completed. A Liberian government official tells the Post that the centers were built "too late."

"If they had been built when we needed them, they wouldn't have been too much," the official, Moses Massaquoi, said.

President Barack Obama dispatched 3,000 troops to West Africa as part of a $750 million plan to fight the spread of the Ebola virus. However, the Post reports that the response from the U.S. and the international community has far outstripped what was necessary. As an example, the Post cites one treatment center where only 46 patients have been admitted since it opened Nov. 18. In Liberia's capital, Monrovia, there are seven Ebola treatment centers. According to the Post, three of those will temporarily suspend operations, while a fourth will close completely.

The sparsely populated centers are a positive sign that the worst of the outbreak may have passed. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that the outbreak has claimed over 8,400 lives, most of them in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. But for the week ending Jan. 11, WHO said Guinea reported its lowest weekly total of new Ebola cases since mid-August. Liberia had its lowest total since the first week of June and no confirmed new cases for the final two days of the week.

All schools in Guinea, which were closed due to the outbreak, are to reopen on Monday, while in Liberia, the schools are reopening "next month," the Liberian Embassy's Charges d'Affaires in Ghana, Musu Ruhle, told the Associated Press.

The WHO says there are now enough beds to isolate and treat Ebola patients, but not all are in the hotspots where the disease is spreading fastest. The U.N. estimates that the number of scientists needed to track the outbreak must be tripled.

One place where the outbreak appears to be less contained is Sierra Leone, where at least 16 new cases were reported last week and schools will remain closed until further notice.

U.N.'s Ebola chief, Dr. David Nabarro, cautioned Thursday that despite the gains "there are still numbers of new cases that are alarming, and there are hotspots that are emerging in new places that make me believe there is still quite a lot of the disease that we're not seeing."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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