LIVE: House Special Hearing on Ebola Crisis in Africa
The House Foreign Affairs Committee is now holding a special subcommittee hearing on the ongoing Ebola outbreak in Africa. Members of the committee interrupted their August recess to hold a hearing on the critical issue hearing important testimony from disease experts.
The hearing is chaired by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ).
Reported by Caroline May, 5:00 PM: After the hearing Ken Isaacs, Vice President of Program and Government Relations for Samaritan’s Purse elaborated on his testimony.
“I don’t want to speak to the politics of the administration or anything like that, but I was clear in my statement today that the response has been a failure. If it wasn’t a failure this hearing wouldn’t be held you wouldn’t be asking me these questions, these people wouldn't have died and the disease wouldn’t have jumped to Nigeria.” Isaacs said, when asked by Breitbart News about the Obama administration’s response to the outbreak. “So it makes you wonder what’s going on.”
“I don’t think it is just the United States,” Isaacs continued. “I think the international community has simply failed to recognize the seriousness of the disease, the magnitude of it and the lethality of it. They just haven’t got it, they haven’t seen it.”
“Our epidemiologists internally in our organization were predicting in April, ‘This is going to be a big deal, this is not a little deal this is not going to burn itself out.’ It is the first time it has been in West Africa" he said. "It is the first time it has been in three countries. It was on mainland ground transportation and it was moving into major metropolitan areas,” he said, noting that before the disease was in remote villages, when now it is in cities with millions of people."
Isaacs was complementary of the Obama administration's participation in helping to get his organizations' workers out of the region.
“The U.S. government, I have to tell you has been extraordinarily helpful in helping us rescue our people and getting them out. The Obama administration was clearly involved,” he said going on to add that they “deeply appreciate that, it would not have happened without that.”
He added they are “deeply grateful."
Reported by Charlie Spiering, 4:33 PM: Isaacs ended the hearing with a somber tone, warning members of Congress to take the Ebola threat seriously.
“If you read the Ministry of Health status reports coming out every day from Libera, I don’t mean to be dramatic, but it has an atmosphere of ‘Apocalypse Now’ in it,” he said, referring to bodies lying in the street and gangs threatening to burn down hospitals.
“I believe that this disease has the potential to be a national security risk for many nations, and I think it will even have an impact on our national security,” he added.
Reported by Charlie Spiering, 4:28 PM: Dr. Frank Glover, a missionary from from the SIM International Mission Organization told members of Congress that there was a serious risk among health workers who were not properly protected from the disease.
“I believe the number one cause of health care worker infections in Liberia is the lack of protective gear. They are asking people to go to work, to take care of patients, and they don’t have gloves and to me this is unconscionable,” he said.
“Even this country, no matter how well trained a doctor is, if an ebola patient comes up to him before he or she knows what he has, he has already been infected.”
Reported by Caroline May, 4:27 PM: The Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tom Frieden brushed off concerns that the Ebola virus could come through the United States’ southern border, Thursday after testifying about the threat of Ebola before a House panel.
“That is not happening,” Frieden said, when asked — during an impromptu press conference— about concerns that Ebola could come across the southern border.
“As far as we know the two patients flown in from Liberia are the first two patients in this hemisphere ever to have Ebola,” he added.
Frieden, during the press conference, also avoided answering Breitbart News’ questions about the U.S. cities in which there have been patients tested for Ebola.
“We’ve had already five patients in the U.S. who have come from countries in West Africa — Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone — all five have tested negative for Ebola. Some have been in the press, some have not. This may happen increasingly in the coming days, weeks and even months. It is going to take time to get this outbreak under control,” Frieden said, when Breitbart News asked in what cities and hospitals the patients were tested.
When asked again by Breitbart News to name the cities, Frieden responded, “I would have to get back to you.”
In his testimony before the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa Wednesday, Frieden said that the five patients that were tested for Ebola turned out to have other ailments including malaria and the flu.
“This is an unprecedented outbreak of Ebola, but It can be stopped. It’s going to be a long hard fight, but we are there. We are surging our response and we are doing what we can to help stop it at the source in Africa and protect Americans here,” Frieden stressed during the press conference.
Frieden added that the U.S. has enough supplies to treat potential victims in the U.S.
“In terms of the supplies, we have plenty of supplies to treat patients in this country,” he said. “As I said in the hearing, it is not impossible that a traveler from West Arica could come into this country, be diagnosed, and potentially if there is a delay in diagnosis cause infections in healthcare workers or family members. But I am confident we will not has a significant risk from Ebola in this country.”
Reported by Charlie Spiering, 4:13 PM: Isaacs said that the Drudge Report drives "panic" about the disease.
Reported by Charlie Spiering, 4:03 PM: Isaacs said that part of the problem was the customary burial practices in the African countries.
“I’m going to be graphic because I think people need to know. A part of that is kissing the corpse,” he said gravely. “In the hours after death with ebola, that is when the body is most infectious because the body is loaded with the virus. Everybody who touches the corpse is another infection.”
Isaacs said that his workers had experienced violence after they tried to sanitize the dead corpses before the burial ceremonies.
Reported by Charlie Spiering, 3:59 PM: Ken Isaacs, the Program and Government Relations Vice President of Samaritans Purse, one of the first organizations on the scene of the epidemic, was highly critical of the world response to the threat.
“It is clear to say that the disease is uncontained and it is out of control in West Africa,” noted Ken Isaacs. “The international response to the disease has been a failure. It is important to understand that.”
Isaacs is also the former director of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance.
Reported by Charlie Spiering, 3:39 PM: During the hearing, Williams admitted that she did not have the exact date of diplomatic cables from embassies in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia about the ebola crisis.
Williams awkwardly checked her notes for the dates, but ended up having to take the question.
“I will say however we are in daily communication with our embassies,” she said. “If not through cables, through emails, through telephone, we are in constant control.”
Reported by Charlie Spiering, 3:25 PM: Frieden said that if a patient was not sick with Ebola they could not infect other people.
“But if someone became ill on the plane and was having fever or started bleeding, then for example that might present a risk to those who came in contact with that -- and didn’t not take proper precautions,” Frieden said.
He added that all of the airlines had been provided detailed advice on what to do should they discover that one of their passengers had been infected.
Reported by Caroline May, 3:24 PM: Frieden addressed five of the suspected Ebola cases in the U.S. that turned out to be health issues other than the feared virus. According to the CDC director, two of the cases were malaria diagnoses, one was influenza and the other two were "something else."
There is “no way to diagnose Ebola without a laboratory test,” he explained.
Reported by Caroline May, 3:17 PM: Of new experimental drugs to combat Ebola, Freiden said the “U.S. government is looking at this very carefully” but that he doesn’t want “any false hope out there.”
He added that the new drugs are difficult to use and that basic supportive care should be in place before any new drugs are considered.
Reported by Charlie Spiering, 3:10 PM: Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Bureau of African Affairs Bisa Williams explained during the that its difficult to stop the virus from spreading beyond some African countries, especially since some were faced with growing security problems.
“Border control and other factors key to checking ebola spread also are challenging for the countries in this region,” she said.
Reported by Jonathan Strong, 3:09 PM: Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) is appearing in the hearing despite not being a member of the subcommittee, a sign of how importantly he is treating the issue.
According to his spokesman, Dan Scandling, Wolf was asked by the subcommittee chairman, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), to appear, in part because of his expertise and position on the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.
The origin of the rare August hearing came from conversations between Wolf, Smith and Ken Isaacs, who oversees all international relief projects for Samaritan's Purse, Scandling said.
Wolf and Smith are also close friends.
Reported by Charlie Spiering, 3:02 PM: CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden explained that the United States is preparing to deal with the Ebola threat on American soil.
“Inevitably there will be travelers, American citizens and others, who go from these three countries or from Lagos, if it doesn't get it under control, and are here with symptoms. Those symptoms might be ebola or something else. So we’re having to deal with ebola in the U.S. in a way we’ve never had to deal with it before.”
Reported by Caroline May, 2:58 PM: Ebola can be stopped, but the fight will not be easy the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tom Frieden testified before a House panel Thursday.
“We can stop Ebola. We know how to do it. It will be a long and hard fight,” Frieden said.
“We have to stop it at the source in Africa,” he continued, adding that the disease must be stopped by “tried and true means."
Frieden continued that if the disease is confronted with strategies that work it can be stopped but that it “won’t be quick and it won’t be easy” due to the need to pay attention to detail.
According Frieden the current outbreak is “unprecedented” because it is the largest to date, multinational, the first outbreak in West Africa, harder to control and it is the first time the United States has dealt with the disease in country.
He also noted that the CDC is at its highest level of response to stop the outbreak and will increase personnel to take on the outbreak. And explained that while there is not sure cure to date, there are ways to cope with the disease.
“What is so concerning about Ebola is the stakes are so high,” Frieden added, explaining that while the disease it not airborne it is dangerous.
Reported by Charlie Spiering, 2:44 PM: Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) criticized the Obama administration underestimating the Ebola outbreak in Africa.
“It appears that both the international health organization and the Obama administration underestimated the magnitude and scope of the epidemic,” he said during his opening statement of the hearing, praising nurses and doctors on the ground who were working on the ground to stop the problems.
“It seems the international community and the U.S had been noticeably absent in helping these West African countries to get out in front of the spread of this epidemic,"
Wolf said that he spent a great deal of time contacting the White House, the State Department, the Center for Disease Control, the Department of Health and Human Services, to make sure that the threat was being properly addressed.
“I was concerned no one could tell me who was in charge within the administration on this issue, no one could explain what actions would be taken to ensure the U.S. was prepared to respond,” he said.