The director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) refused to definitively answer whether someone who does not have a fever can still transmit Ebola.
On Thursday, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), the Chair of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, asked if Ebola can be “transmitted from a person who does not yet have a high fever.”
Murphy noted that the CDC and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have claimed that “Ebola patients are only contagious when they have a fever,” but “the largest study of the current ebola outbreak found 13% of confirmed cases in West Africa did not have an associated fever.”
He also said that travelers can even mask fevers by taking Ibuprofen, which could render the airport screening measures ineffective, as Murphy said. Murphy also mentioned that “errors in judgment” have already been made “by underestimating the danger and overestimating the ability to handle the Ebola outbreak” and “the trust and credibility of the administration and government are waning as the American public loses confidence each day with demonstrated failures of the current strategy” after obvious “mistakes were made.” He said “trust and credibility” can “only be restored with honest and thorough action.”
This week, a Texas nurse who treated Thomas Eric Duncan contracted Ebola and reportedly had Ebola symptoms before she got a fever. And the CDC allowed a second nurse from that Texas hospital to fly even though she told the agency she had a low-grade fever.
Later in the hearing, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) noted that there is “great confusion” because the temperature threshold for Ebola has gone down from 101.5 degrees to 100.4 degrees. He mentioned that Thomas Eric Duncan’s temperature was 100.1 degrees when he first came to the emergency room and spiked to 103 degrees 24 hours later.
When Gingrey asked for more specific guidelines, Frieden punted, merely saying there needs to be an “extra margin of safety for screening.” Frieden also conceded that someone could have symptoms of Ebola without having a fever but said the person would be so sick he would barely be able to walk.
Days after a second Texas nurse boarded a flight with a low-grade fever before she was diagnosed with Ebola, CDC director Frieden said parents “should not be concerned” about their children contracting Ebola unless they have been to West Africa or exposed to someone who has had the virus.
Murphy, the subcommittee chair, was puzzled that the administration still refuses “to consider any travel restrictions from 1,000 travelers entering the United States each week from Ebola hot zones.” He said America should not put the concerns of “fledgling democracies” over protecting public health and emphasized that, “we do not have to leave the door open to all travel to and from all hot zones from Western Africa while Ebola is an unwelcome and dangerous stowaway on these flights.”
He noted that “the number of Ebola cases in Africa is doubling in about every three weeks” and “with no vaccine or cure, we are facing down a disease for which there is no room for error. “
Nina Pham, the Texas nurse who contracted Ebola after treating Duncan, reportedly was symptomatic before she got a fever. And Amber Vinson, the second nurse who contracted Ebola from the Texas hospital, reportedly called the CDC to tell the agency about her low-grade fever, but was told she could fly from Cleveland to Dallas. Frieden admitted that Vinson called the CDC but said he still has not seen a transcript of the call.