U.S. Government Response to the Ebola Outbreak

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Summary of U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations hearing provided by The Market Institute

The Senate Appropriations Committee met on November 12, 2014 to assess the government response to the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the U.S. and abroad. In her opening statement, Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) said they will provide what resources are needed to fight the Ebola virus. She is deeply concerned about Ebola, here and abroad. The disease needs to be contained and eradicated. There have been 13,500 cases in West Africa and currently no cases of Ebola in the United States. The disease must be fought in West Africa. The best science needs to be utilized and the deployment of public health officials needs to be effective. Ranking Member Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) said the government response needs to be effective, but there have been many mixed messages from the Administration about containment and quarantine.

The first witness, Heather Higginbottom, Deputy Secretary at Management and Resources, U.S. Department of State, accompanied by Nancy Lindborg, Assistant Administrator at Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, U.S. Agency for International Development, testified in her opening statement the Ebola outbreak has resulted in over 5,000 deaths in West Africa. The Department of State is working in concert with other agencies and partners worldwide to control the epidemic at it’s source. They are requesting emergency funds to scale up their response in order to effectively fight the virus in West Africa.

The second witness, Michael Lumpkin, Assistant Secretary at Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict, U.S. Department of Defense, accompanied by Major General James M. Lariviere, USMC, Deputy Director for Politico-Military Affairs (Africa), Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified in his opening statement that the Unites States’ military efforts is part of a broader worldwide effort to fight the virus. After visiting Liberia, his takeaways are the U.S. has deployed a top notch team on the ground, the Liberian government is doing what it can with its limited resources, and the worldwide response is increasing rapidly.The Ebola epidemic is truly a national security issue. The DoD is requesting $112 million for DARPA to develop new ways and technologies to contain the Ebola outbreak.

The third witness, Jeh Johnson, Secretary at U.S. Department of Homeland Security testified in his opening statement that the first and foremost, keeping Americans safe from Ebola is a the central goal, but that requires to fight the virus in West Africa. They are requesting people who are symptomatic and have been in contact with Ebola patients to not travel on airplanes. There are no longer any direct flights from the three affected countries to the United States. The number of flights leaving the affected countries is dropping very rapidly with only an average of 150 passengers a day on those flights.

The fourth witness, Sylvia Burwell, Secretary at Health and Human Services, and accompanied by Thomas Frieden, Director at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Anthony Fauci, Director at National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, testified in her opening statement that the HHS strategy is designed to strengthen domestic preparedness, to stop the epidemic at its source, to accelerate the research of vaccines and rapid diagnostics, and to advance the global ability to respond. There have been signs that the monitoring measures in place are working. In West Africa, there are signs of progress, but by no means is the fight over. HHS is requesting $2.43 billion in emergency funding to help prepare localities to diagnose, contain, and treat the virus. The request will also expedite the research of vaccines and diagnostics.

In response to questioning, Sylvia Burwell said:

  • Physicians and nurses will continue to be trained and measured on how that training is going
  • HHS is providing guidelines through CDC and are providing access by working with manufacturers to get those in need the equipment to contain the virus
  • Many States have approached HHS to determine what facilities to use in the event of an Ebola outbreak

In response to questioning, Dr. Anthony Fauci said:

  • It is extremely unlikely that the virus will mutate in a way that would make it more functional, or transmissible like the flu

In response to questioning, Nancy Lindborg said:

  • They are also focusing on leaving behind a system in West Africa that can sustain containment of future outbreaks

In response to questioning, Jeh Johnson said:

  • His biggest concern is that if America bans flights coming from affected countries, others will follow suit, and isolate those countries, which is something they do not want to do

In response to questioning,Michael Lumpkin said:

  • Soldiers are not involved in direct patient care in West Africa

Hearing Website:
http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/event/full-committee-hearing-us-government-response-ebola-outbreak

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