Despite being repeatedly pressed on Fox News yesterday to name one of the new actions the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention intends to take to prevent the spread of Ebola from affected West African countries, director Tom Frieden simply said “stay tuned.”
“You will hear about that over the next few days,” Frieden said. “We want to make sure that whatever we propose, whatever we — work — will work.”
President Obama met with Frieden and other relevant officials from John Kerry to Gen. Martin Dempsey yesterday afternoon, and afterward announced “additional passenger screening” with just a few details.
Host Neil Cavuto asked Frieden if he agreed with Obama’s assessment that the chance of an outbreak happening in the U.S. was very low.
“We know how to solve Ebola. And the steps that are being taken in Dallas today are going to stop this in its tracks,” Frieden said. “They have identified every — they have identified the 10 people who looked like they did have contact with him and 38 who might have had contact.”
The CDC director said he understands “that impulse” to restrict travel from affected countries, “but we want to make sure that we do don’t anything that backfires, because if you stop travel, if you isolate these countries, it makes it a lot harder to get help in, the disease spreads more there.”
“It may spread to other countries in Africa and ultimately we may be dealing with this for years on end,” he added.
“We are looking at other things we might do to further increase safety of the American people. That’s the number one priority of the CDC, of the U.S. government. We’re looking at all options. We have gotten good suggestions in. We’re looking at their feasibility and whether they would be effective. We want to do something that really makes a difference.”
Frieden said so far 77 passengers have been prevented from boarding planes in affected countries “because of that screening system that we have put in place,” including checking temperatures with a “quality thermometer.”
The CDC chief was asked about the risk of the 21-day incubation period or people lying on questionnaires.
“Well, that’s why we’re looking at all the options,” Frieden replied.
“Could you tell what one of them are? What are one of those options?” Cavuto asked.
“Well, let me first make an important point, that no matter what we do, we’re not going to get the risk of zero in this country or any country as long as it’s spreading widely in Africa,” Frieden responded. “And whatever we do, we need to make sure that we don’t inadvertently increase the risk that it spreads there and, therefore, increase the risk elsewhere, including here.”
The director called it “normal to be scared of Ebola.”
“It’s a deadly disease,” Frieden said. “It’s a terrible disease.”