CDC, NIH officials testify on Ebola before Congress

Oct. 17, 2014

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, testified before the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday about the agency's efforts to combat the Ebola virus at home and abroad. “To protect the United States we have to stop Ebola at its source,” Frieden said, stressing that protecting the United States from the possibility of an outbreak ultimately depends on controlling the epidemic in West Africa.

Committee members did not disagree with that; Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich), for instance, said, “You're right; it needs to be solved in Africa.” But Upton and some of the other Committee members asserted that the government should protect the United States by instituting a travel ban from the affected nations to the U.S. The CDC and the Obama administration has opposed that strategy, arguing that it would result in people from West Africa entering the United States by more indirect routes, and thus being harder to track; and that isolating the African nations would only worsen the epidemic there, which would negatively impact infection control efforts and further destabilize the region.

Frieden, along with Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, acknowledged missteps related to the treatment of now-deceased Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan in a Texas hospital earlier this month, and the flaws in the hospital protocols that led to two nurses being infected, but expressed confidence in their agencies’ course of action going forward. The fact that the CDC permitted one nurse to travel on a commercial airline even after she had self-reported that she had fever, but before she was confirmed to have Ebola, was of particular concern to some Committee members. Read a Washington Post report on the hearing.

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