The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has had a light presence when it comes to the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ebola outbreak. But now that is changing.

Dr. Robert Redfield, the CDC director, tells NPR that he’ll be assigning about a dozen health experts to work in the DRC for a year and positioning at least some of them much closer to the epicenter than earlier teams.

The last time U.S. personnel traveled anywhere near the outbreak zone was last August, when a team of three CDC experts and one USAID staffer arrived in the town of Beni several weeks after the current outbreak was declared. Days later one of the scores of rebel groups active in that part of Congo attacked a nearby military base.

The U.S. State Department – which has authority over security for all overseas U.S. government employees – immediately ordered the team out. And from that point the State Department restricted the CDC’s Ebola experts to Congo’s capital, Kinshasa – on the west side of the country, nearly 2,000 miles from the outbreak zone on the eastern side. CDC has also deployed teams to assist officials at the World Health Organization’s headquarters in Geneva.

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