The West African Ebola crisis escalated further this week into a global concern. At a World Bank conference on Thursday, CDC Director Thomas Frieden — joined by a panel of representatives from other Ebola impacted countries — stressed at the need to quickly invest in public health services.
Meanwhile, the recess-bound Congress is preparing for to return for a ‘lame-duck’ session next month, which will likely focus primarily on the Ebola crisis. Several lawmakers this week urged the addition of Ebola response funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health in a possible omnibus spending bill, which is due by Dec. 11. Lawmakers will also gauge the effectiveness of new procedures introduced this week to screen arriving airline passengers.
Additionally CQ HealthBeat’s (@CQHealthTweet) Rebecca Adams, at a Thursday media breakfast with HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, recorded Burwell as saying: “we had one case and I think there may be other cases, and I think we have to recognize that as a nation.” Separately, Roll Call’s Hannah Hess reported that Congress’ in-house physician has readied an Ebola preparedness plan.
Meanwhile, House appropriators this week approved additional Defense Department funding transfers for the Pentagon’s Ebola relief mission in Africa. However, CQ Roll Call’s John Donnelly and Megan Scully reported (subscription) that Senate approval hinges on additional details on force protection plans.
Earlier this week, the Pentagon’s commander of the African relief effort discussed how the military units would interact with local health officials and Ebola patients. On Thursday, the commander for Western Hemisphere military operations noted that his “nightmare scenario” is an Ebola outbreak in Central America and Haiti.
Remark excerpt from U.S. Southern Command Chief, General John Kelly at a conference on Thursday:
The one thing you can bet, the five services of the U.S. military — Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard — will get it done and will be a large solution to this problem. Specifically in my part of the world, when the Ebola crisis first started maybe three weeks ago, a month ago, I told my staff, let’s pretend that it’s hit our AO, our area of responsibility. The two nightmare scenarios would be Central America and Haiti. And now we’re just watching what AFRICOM does, since they’re doing it, and their plan will be our plan.
But, again, it goes back to this interagency. You’d be surprised how little the U.S. military is actually tasked to do until the problem grows so big, no one else can do it, and then we get called in to do it. The interagency is certainly aware of the possibility of — and likelihood, frankly, of Ebola coming to the Western Hemisphere. But I think the best way to deal with it will be the way it’s being dealt with in Africa. And God forbid — and unfortunately, I think it will happen — when it does come to the hemisphere, we’ll just replicate that.
But there’s only so much bandwidth, if you will, of preventive medicine people and the like that — to go around, and they are totally involved in trying to deal with the problem in West Africa. If it broke into the Western Hemisphere, the countries we’re talking about have almost no ability to deal with it, particularly Haiti and the Central American republics, almost no ability to deal with it.