The PJ Tatler

CDC Director: Ebola Could Become the Next AIDS

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden continues to rule out restricting flights from the Ebola-stricken countries, but admitted today that the virus could become the next AIDS.

Frieden made his remarks at a World Bank meeting in Washington today.

He said “I will say that in the 30 years I’ve been working in public health, the only thing like this has been AIDS. And we have to work now so that this is not the world’s next AIDS. We can do that, I think, exactly as was said by all of the three presidents.

“Speed is the most important variable here. This is controllable and this was preventable. It’s preventable by investing in core public health services, both in the epicenter, or most affected countries, in the surrounding countries and in other countries that might be affected. Public health is surely underinvested in and yet, it is the best buy.

“The economic costs that the World Bank released yesterday reflect costs that could have been prevented for less than 1 percent of what those costs will be.”

The human cost of the AIDS epidemic has been staggering. That viral epidemic started in Africa and has killed some 35 million worldwide. So far Ebola has killed about 4,000 in the current outbreak, which has been the worst to date since the virus was discovered in 1976.

Enhanced Ebola screening is set to begin at five US airports soon, but screeners report that they lack training. Questions also remain about what will happen if a traveler triggers a response.

The screening, which consists of a beefed-up questionnaire and testing for fever, is also far from certain to detect whether a person is carrying the deadly virus.

“People can take Tylenol, they can take ibuprofen and they can mask that fever so this isn’t a foolproof strategy for keeping Ebola out of the country,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, Infectious Disease Physician at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.