Over the last few weeks, we have heard a lot about the Ebola virus. The stories from Africa are heartbreaking – countries with limited resources are fighting to contain the disease and in many cases it is spreading faster than it can be controlled. In Liberia, Ebola cases are doubling every 15-20 days, with a million cases possible in western Africa by the end of the year if the current trends continue.
With the first case reported in the United States, it’s only natural to wonder how big a threat Ebola poses for our own country. The good news is that when proper safety measures are taken, outbreaks can be prevented or minimized. We all have a part to play by knowing the facts and supporting the efforts of some of the world’s most eminent public health experts and scholars.
The Ebola virus can only be spread through direct contact with the blood or other bodily fluids of an infected individual, and cannot be spread through water or transmitted through the air. We are fortunate that the United States is home to some of the world’s best physicians, most advanced medical care and research infrastructure, and finest treatment capabilities. Thanks to public health agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we are prepared to monitor, track, and treat the spread of Ebola in the United States.
However, preventing widespread illness due to infectious diseases is resource intensive, and the successful treatment of Ebola requires constant, intensive care. The best way to control this dangerous disease is to have trained CDC professionals, in coordination with other nations, use well-established outbreak management strategies and support the heavily affected regions in their efforts to educate people about signs, symptoms, and prevention strategies.
In the United States, the CDC is ensuring that the Transportation Security Administration and border protection staff are all trained to look for signs of illness and to alert quarantine staff if a passenger is suspected of having Ebola. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), another essential public health agency, is conducting intensive research on Ebola and other diseases, seeking vaccines or treatments that will combat them.
The CDC provides a critical first response when these threats to public health occur.
Last year, Senator Isakson (R-GA) and I delivered a bipartisan set of speeches on the Senate floor about the important work the CDC is doing. Support for public health goes beyond partisan differences – it’s about saving lives.
While we have taken steps to help address this public health crisis and to prevent the disease from spreading, we must do more.
I support the work that the Director of the CDC, Dr. Frieden, and his dedicated public health officials are doing and applaud the leadership he has shown. In September, Dr. Frieden and I visited the Cleveland Clinic to discuss my legislation to strengthen the federal response to antibiotic resistance. His visit demonstrated the CDC’s hands-on approach to healthcare and its commitment to combating a variety of illnesses.
To address the threat of Ebola and prevent future outbreaks, we must support these agencies and their commitment to American’s public health.