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October 1, 2014

Posts in "Disease Control"

September 29, 2014

Ebola Patient Arrives at NIH; Congress Slowly Releases Ebola Response Funds

On Sunday afternoon, the National Institutes of Health received its first Ebola patient. An American physician who was volunteering services in an Ebola treatment unit in Sierra Leone and was exposed to the virus was admitted to the NIH Clinical Center’s high-level isolation unit.

Meanwhile, congressional appropriators are slowly releasing the requested transfer of funding for the U.S. Ebola response effort in West Africa. Roll Call’s Humberto Sanchez and Niels Lesniewski reported on Friday that the approval of the transfer of the entire $1 billion request is held up pending further details on Pentagon plans to keep soldiers from contracting the illness.

Appropriations and defense committee leaders have released only portions of the request. The partial release of funding, which would have expired at the end of the last week, allows the Pentagon to spend $100 million of the funds while lawmakers await details of how the funds will be used.





September 26, 2014

Weekly Spotlight: Ebola Crisis Entices a Global Health Focus

President Barack Obama today address a summit of international health leaders at the White Hosue. The president and cabinet officials will tout the administration’s global health agenda, which is shadowed by the ongoing Ebola crisis in West Africa. On Thursday, the assembled health leaders met (view broadcast) to encourage non-governmental organizations to join in on an effort to create a worldwide system to get ahead of threats like Ebola. In a Thursday speech at the UN, Obama exhorted world leaders to ramp up their response efforts on Ebola.

However, an expanded international health crisis response program will require Congress to appropriate funds beyond the $1 billion the administration is seeking to establish treatment units and train and equip health care workers in West Africa. This week, a quirky funding transfer approval process inched toward final approval of shifting Pentagon funds toward the U.S. Ebola response plan.

Committee chiefs from congressional defense and appropriations panels must sign off on the transfer requests. CQ Roll Call’s Megan Scully reported on Wednesday that House appropriators have approved the request subject to additional details on goals and a mission timeline. A separate Associated Press report on Wednesday noted that a Senate defense committee transfer request sign off is still pending.

Meanwhile, CDC Director Tom Frieden this week spoke to congressional staffers at a seminar on the Ebola outbreak (view C-Span broadcast) and Roll Call’s Hannah Hess reported on the reaction to a display of Ebola containment devices on display in a House office building.








September 16, 2014

Ebola: U.S. Ramps Up Funding and Response Personnel; Cuba Joins In Too

The House today is busy debating a stopgap spending bill, which includes additional funding for federal health agency efforts to combat the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa. Separately, President Obama is in Atlanta today to announce a revamped effort – including a Pentagon plan to construct treatment centers in the region. The new plan calls for the deployment of 3,000 U.S. military personnel and 65 officers of the U.S. Public Health Service and adds to the 120 American personnel already sent to the region. The U.S. Ebola response effort so far has spent $100 million, the Pentagon is transferring $500 million to fund its mission and the pending continuing resolution seeks to add $88 million to address the crisis.

Separately, the increase in the direct U.S. response on the ground to the Ebola crisis parallels efforts by Cuba, which announced last week that it is sending 165 medical workers to Sierra Leone. CQ HealthBeat’s John Reichard (@CQHealthTweet) reports that Cuba has a history of sending medical staff to Africa.



By Paul Jenks Posted at 11:37 a.m.
Disease Control

September 10, 2014

Congress Offers Ebola Response Funding; Health Care Volunteers Are Needed in Africa

House appropriators on Tuesday evening unveiled details of a fiscal 2015 continuing resolution to fund the government into the new fiscal year. The measure stretches funding through Dec. 11 and provides an extra $88 million to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The added funding matches the administration’s request to support medical specialists on the ground in Africa and speed the development and manufacturing of Ebola drugs.

Congress’ role in addressing the threat of the Ebola virus focuses on providing funding for medical supplies and drug and vaccine research. However, halting the spread of the disease will hinge on finding enough health professionals willing to volunteer. HealthBeat’s (@CQHealthTweet) Rebecca Adams (@RebeccaAdamsDC) reported Tuesday on the profound challenge of enticing health professionals to volunteer to go to Africa to directly assist in efforts to combat the spread of the virus.

The World Health Organization estimates that 760 foreign volunteers will be needed at any one time over the next six months to monitor infected people, test lab samples, run logistical offices and disinfect thousands of corpses. The global WHO appeal so far has generated only a handful of responses and the agency estimates that as many as three health care workers are needed for each patient. The gruesome impact of the virus on the human body and the paucity of proven drugs and a viable vaccine hinders the task of recruiting volunteer health workers.


September 9, 2014

IG Blast Homeland Security’s Pandemic Preparedness Program

In 2006, Congress appropriated $47 million to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to prepare federal employees for a possible influenza pandemic. The objective of the program was to ensure that employees were protected from a pandemic and could continue DHS security operations.

On Monday, the DHS Inspector General reviewed spending on the program and determined that the program acquisition process was mishandled. CQ’s Jennifer Scholtes (@JAscholtes) reported that auditors critiqued the department for not adequately taking stock of the department’s needs or developing a clear plan for how much and what types of equipment and antiviral medication to buy. The agency accumulated 300,000 courses of antiviral medical countermeasures without examining the department’s actual needs. The department also purchased 350,000 coverall suits, and 16 million surgical masks. Additionally, of the 5,000 bottles of hand sanitizer purchased under the program, 84 percent of the bottles have expired expiration dates.

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September 8, 2014

Spotlight: White House Suggests Additional Ebola Response Funding

Congress returns this week with the primary objective of forging a stopgap spending bill extending existing federal spending in order to avoid a federal agency shutdown at the end of the month. On Friday, the administration added additional Ebola response funding to a list of requested immediate spending adjustments and transfers — called “anomalies,” to address additional critical funding requirements. CQ HealthBeat reported that the administration’s spending adjustment request includes the transfer $10 million from existing accounts into a new fund to respond to the crisis and $58 million in new funding for Department of Health and Human Services drug research to accelerate the development of Ebola drugs and vaccines. Separately, the U.S. Agency for International development has allocated $75 million from current funds to respond to the outbreak.

White House budget planners want congressional appropriators to add the additional funding to a continuing resolution, which would fund the federal government beyond the Oct. 1 start of the new federal fiscal year. The continuing resolution is expected to provide stopgap funding from October until mid-December. Separately, a group of House Democrats last week pressed Republican leaders to schedule a hearing prior to the end of the month on U.S. efforts to fight the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa.

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September 4, 2014

Waiting for Ebola Response Funding

The Ebola crisis in West Africa might complicate congressional action on a stopgap spending bill to keep the government operating beyond the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year.

Several lawmakers at a hearing on the Ebola crisis during last month’s recess urged Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Thomas Frieden to request more money. However, in an interview with CQ HealthBeat on Wednesday, Frieden noted that spending is already authorized for global disease detection and response, and he avoided detailing additional funding needs specifically in response to the Ebola crisis. The administration’s proposed budget submitted before the virus outbreak requested $42.5 million in added spending for global health programs.

The continuing resolution might include additional money to support the international medical response to Ebola, but CQ Roll Call’s Tamar Hallerman reported today that congressional Republican leaders are seeking to avoid too many new spending provisions in a stopgap bill, which would extend current spending levels and policy directives through Dec. 11 or 12.


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August 8, 2014

Ebola Crisis Prompts CDC Funding Questions (Video)

A House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing Thursday on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa prompted a discussion on Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) funding levels. The lead agency responding to the Ebola crisis is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is funded through the HHS budget. The chairman of the House panel questioned whether enough money was available for CDC programs designed to prepare for a pandemic health crisis. CQ HealthBeat’s Kerry Young reported that a senior GOP appropriator, also attending the hearing, inquired about the need to shift current HHS funding toward toward addressing the CDC response to the Ebola crisis.

However, the HHS budget is already subject to separate transfers to cover new expenses from an influx of migrant children at the border with Mexico. A HHS agency, the Administration for Children and Families, is responsible for housing and care for the migrant children. The administration requested emergency program funding for HHS border relief efforts, but Congress was unable to reach an agreement on supplemental spending prior to the August congressional recess.

Neither the House nor Senate has passed a fiscal 2015 spending bill for HHS, whose appropriations are frequently stymied by disputes over additional spending for the implementation of the 2010 health care law. When Congress returns in September, appropriators could offer additional HHS pandemic response funding in separate planned action on a stopgap continuing spending resolution which would extend funding for all federal agencies past the Oct. 1 start of the new federal fiscal year.


August 7, 2014

House Panel Gets an Ebola Response Update; Vaccine Needed

A House Foreign Affairs subcommittee today holds a hearing on the U.S. response to the Ebola crisis. Roll Call will live stream the hearing session starting at 2:00 p.m.

Witnesses at the hearing include Thomas R. Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and officials from the  State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development.

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By Paul Jenks Posted at 10:01 a.m.
Disease Control

August 5, 2014

Ebola Drug Reportedly Shows Promise

Concern about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has prompted a heightened response from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The federal health agency imposed tight security and safety precautions as the first Americans infected with the virus arrived in the United States from Liberia, where they had been working. Dr. Kent Brantly arrived on Saturday in Atlanta for treatment at Emory University Hospital, and  Nancy Writebol  is due to arrive on Tuesday. CNN reports that both  received doses of an experimental drug.  The report could lead to calls for wider use of the product, which has not been approved for use, based on anecdotal reports about promising results in the two patients.

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August 1, 2014

Ebola Concerns Escalate, Drug Development Continues

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A nurse hangs an Ebola information sign on the wall of a public health center on July 31 in Monrovia, Liberia. (AFP stringer/Getty Images)

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention has intensified the U.S. response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which reportedly is worsening. CDC Director Thomas Frieden said in a press briefing on Thursday that the agency is sending dozens more workers to the region, as well as issuing an advisory against non-essential travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

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July 30, 2014

CDC Ramps Up Ebola Response

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has expanded its monitoring of the possible transmission of the deadly Ebola virus to travelers arriving from West Africa. CQ Roll Call’s Tom Curry reports that the CDC has issued a Health Alert Notice to doctors and nurses to inquire about travel histories of people who have recent traveled to West Africa.

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July 29, 2014

CDC Updates Stats on Low Teen Cancer Vaccination Rates

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently sounded an alarm with new statistics about the low rate of vaccination of teenagers against human papillomavirus. The health monitoring agency noted that teens are getting the HPV cancer vaccine at a lower rate than other vaccines.

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July 25, 2014

Census Bureau Updates HIV-AIDS Research Library

The U.S. Census Bureau this week announced the annual update of its database of scientific journals and reports on HIV-AIDS research. The agency touts the library as the “most comprehensive resource of its kind in the world.”

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July 17, 2014

FDA Lab With Smallpox Vials Had Other Dangerous Biological Agents

The Food and Drug Administration lab on the NIH campus where six vials of smallpox were discovered also had biological agents causing such diseases including dengue, influenza, Q fever, and rickettsia, government officials have disclosed.

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