Alexander Tells Administration Health Officials: “We Must Take Deadly Threat of Ebola as Seriously as We Take ISIS”

At Senate hearing, calls for “more urgent response from the U.S. and other countries”

Posted on September 16, 2014

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“There have been a total of 4,963 Ebola cases reported in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. And almost half of those were new and reported in just the last three weeks. We need to act now."–Lamar Alexander

WASHINGTON, September 16 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), said today the United States and other countries must respond more urgently to the threat of Ebola, which he said is “as deadly and dangerous as ISIS.”

At a joint Senate hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee, Alexander told administration officials testifying, “This is an instance where we should be running toward the burning flames with our fireproof suits on.”

Alexander pledged his support for the administration’s request for $30 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and $58 million for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) in the continuing resolution, which is expected to be passed this week to help control the Ebola epidemic. He also said he would support the Defense Department’s request to help with the Ebola response.

Below is the Senator’s complete opening statement:  

“We must take the deadly, dangerous threat of Ebola as seriously as we take ISIS. The spread of this disease requires a more urgent response from the United States and other countries.

“This is one of the most explosive, dangerous, deadly epidemics in modern times. The nations of the world know what it will take to reduce the number of deaths from this epidemic, and that it will require an immediate and huge response.

“There is no known cure. Half of those who get sick from Ebola die. Each sick person could put 20 or more other people at risk, including caregivers, friends, or family.

“This is an instance where we should be running toward the burning flames with our fireproof suits on.

“Ebola is killing people in West Africa at alarming rates, and it is picking up speed.

“The World Health Organization data reported today indicates that the number of new cases reported in the 21 days prior represents 47 percent of all cases reported thus far.

“There have been a total of 4963 Ebola cases reported in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.  And almost half of those - 2344 cases - were new and reported in just the last three weeks.

“We need to act now and do all that we can to combat this disease.

“Ebola is not like the flu. It is only spread by bodily fluids, often contracted by caring for someone who is sick or through burial practices.

“Some people might wonder why we should have so much concern for a disease that is halfway around the world. There are many reasons why we should all care.

“The effects of the virus are already challenging economic and political stability, as well as global security and travel.

“With global travel these days, we are only one airplane ride away from a person exposed to Ebola getting on a plane to the US and then becoming sick once they arrive.

“Second, there is the human tragedy in these West African countries.  What these countries are experiencing as Ebola ravages their families and society is unconscionable, and the United States is still the indispensable nation, so we must act because only we can with the knowledge, resources, and compassion that we can bring to bear.

“Finally, in my home state of Tennessee, we are very proud of our nickname, “the Volunteer state.”

“Dr. Brantly, who is testifying today about his work at Samaritan’s Purse and as an Ebola patient, isn’t a Tennessean, but he is the son of two graduates of Lipscomb University, which is in Nashville. He also has siblings that attended Lipscomb. 

“And as the Volunteer State, many Tennesseans volunteer to participate in mission trips to Africa to help with medical care, or to provide clean drinking water, or to build schools, and share their faith, or participate in many other worthy causes.  We share this spirit with many Americans around the country, so it is truly a national concern.

“Also, there are many Americans in Africa serving our country through the military and our embassies in those countries.

“I will support the administration’s request for $30 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and $58 million for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) in the continuing resolution, which is expected to be passed this week to help control the Ebola epidemic.

“The BARDA funds will allow the agency to accelerate development and manufacturing of a potential drug to treat Ebola and vaccines to prevent it.

“I also support the Defense Department’s request to reprogram $500 million to help with the Ebola response and for DOD to assist controlling the outbreak.  I look forward to hearing more details about the upcoming request.

“I am pleased that our leaders on both sides of the aisle in both chambers have come together to ensure that these resources are in the continuing resolution we will be voting on in the next few days, and I hope that we get the reprogramming request approved and pass the CR quickly.

“This is an emergency. We need to recognize it as such, and we need to partner and work with other countries around the world that recognize that fact.

“Last week, I had briefings and conversations with the CDC Director Tom Frieden and United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power, who are working to enlist other countries in an effort to control the Ebola epidemic, and I offered them my full support to their efforts to stop this ferocious epidemic.

“Thank you all for being here today to help us bring attention to the threat of the Ebola epidemic and the urgency to act.

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