(WASHINGTON) — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said today he is “confident” the United States can prevent any widespread outbreak of Ebola on American soil.
“Here in the U.S., I remain quite confident we will not have a widespread outbreak,” Frieden told This Week anchor George Stephanopoulos. “We will stop it in its tracks, because we’ve got infection control in hospitals and public health that tracks and isolates people if they get symptoms.”
Days after Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan became the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., Frieden said the U.S. health system is prepared to handle the disease, and said he wants to export similar medical practices to the West African countries ravaged by the disease.
“Right now, the best thing to do [for Duncan] is that meticulous kind of clinical care, of supporting his fluid and electrolytes, doing everything possible,” Frieden said. “And that’s really the kind of thing that we want to get up and running in Africa, as well.”
While he was symptomatic, before he was put in isolation at Dallas Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, Duncan was in close contact with nine individuals who are considered high risk and are now being closely monitored.
“Last we’ve heard, no one has developed symptoms of those who had contact [with Duncan],” Frieden said. “But we’re going to check every single day, because some people did have, particularly family members, a lot of contact when he was sick and we know that his condition is quite critical, so we’re really hoping for his recovery.”
While there have been no newly diagnosed Ebola cases in the U.S. since Duncan, Frieden said he expects to see more rumored cases and false alarms around the country. The CDC has been consulted on more than 100 cases in connection with Ebola but Frieden said only Duncan’s case “worried” his staff.
The heightened attention on Ebola has also prompted calls from politicians such as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., for travel restrictions between the U.S. and the West African nations battling the disease.
“First and foremost, our top priority is the safety of Americans. And we will consider any options to increase that safety,” Frieden said.
“We have to recognize that try as we might, until the outbreak is controlled in Africa, we can’t get the risk here to zero,” he added. “But we’ll absolutely look at any suggestion that’s workable and that wouldn’t backfire. We don’t want to do something that inadvertently increases our risk by making it harder to stop the outbreak there.”
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