|Congressman Griffith's Weekly E-Newsletter 10.13.14
Monday, October 13, 2014 â€“
Ebola: An Update
On September 16, President Obama said from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia:
â€śFirst and foremost, I want the American people to know that our experts, here at the CDC and across our government, agree that the chances of an Ebola outbreak here in the United States are extremely low. Weâ€™ve been taking the necessary precautions, including working with countries in West Africa to increase screening at airports so that someone with the virus doesnâ€™t get on a plane for the United States. In the unlikely event that someone with Ebola does reach our shores, weâ€™ve taken new measures so that weâ€™re prepared here at home. Weâ€™re working to help flight crews identify people who are sick, and more labs across our country now have the capacity to quickly test for the virus. Weâ€™re working with hospitals to make sure that they are prepared, and to ensure that our doctors, our nurses and our medical staff are trained, are ready, and are able to deal with a possible case safely.â€ť
However, as we all know, in late September a Mr. Duncan was diagnosed with Ebola in Texas after having left Liberia. According to reports, he did not have symptoms of the disease when departing, but developed them after having arrived. Because of the diseaseâ€™s incubation period, a person may be infected with Ebola for as long as three weeks before symptoms appear.
Unfortunately, treatment did not work and Mr. Duncan passed away on October 8, making him the first person to die of this disease in the United States. He died approximately a week after having been diagnosed, and just weeks after the President said Ebola was â€śunlikelyâ€ť to enter the United States.
The President was wrong about the likelihood of this disease entering the United States. Could he and his Administration also be wrong about the likelihood of an outbreak or about our preparedness?
â€śWe had one case and I think there may be other cases, and I think we have to recognize that as a nation,â€ť warned Sylvia Burwell, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), on October 9.
CDC officials on Sunday, October 12 confirmed that a Texas nurse who had â€śextensive contactâ€ť with Mr. Duncan has tested positive for Ebola, making her the first to contract the disease inside the United States. She was reportedly wearing the recommended protective gear while handling Mr. Duncan. CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said a â€śprotocol breachâ€ť was likely responsible for her infection.
The nurse is being treated and, according to reports, is in stable condition. Meanwhile, the city of Dallas has made a â€śreverse-911 callâ€ť to residents in a four-block area to notify them a neighbor is the second case of Ebola in the United States.
I am very concerned. Will current and planned protocols protect the American people from exposure to this disease?
Federal officials recently announced they would begin screening (taking temperatures, filling out questionnaires, etc.) at five major U.S. airports passengers entering our country from West Africa. Similarly, Britain will be screening certain passengers.
Some say these screenings alone would not have identified Mr. Duncanâ€™s case, and that there is more that must be done to protect people from this disease. I would also argue that the Presidentâ€™s immigration policy, foreign policy, etc. could go further to protect the American people.
As a student of history, I cannot help at this time but recall the polio outbreak of the 1950s â€“ more specifically, of Wythevilleâ€™s â€śSummer Without Childrenâ€ť in which the town was essentially quarantined as officials struggled with a full-blown polio epidemic. This was not to be discriminatory, but was meant to protect and to stop/slow the spread of polio, about which little was known at the time.
There have been legitimate calls for immigration and travel restrictions in an effort to help prevent the spread of Ebola. I suggest you review last weekâ€™s column in which I discuss how to further protect the American people while also addressing concerns that such restrictions would limit help to African nations in need.
Lastly, Ebola may be getting most of the headlines, but I am also concerned about Enterovirus D68, which has killed at least two children and may be causing paralysis-like symptoms in others. The CDC and other agencies must work to protect Americans from both diseases. The situation with both diseases is changing rapidly. This column reflects the facts known at the time of its writing.
As always, if you have concerns or comments or wish to inquire about legislative issues, feel free to contact my offices. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.