CDC Sending 50 Specialists to Africa to Contain a 'Terrible, Merciless Virus'

August 4, 2014 - 4:11 AM

tom frieden

Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Erik S. Lesser/AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - "I can understand why people are scared of Ebola. It's deadly. It's gruesome death. It's a terrible, merciless virus," Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told "Fox News Sunday."

Not only are two infected Americans returning to the United States, but CDC is sending 50 disease control specialists to three West African countries to "help them find, respond to and stop the spread of the disease."

Frieden said those public health experts "know how to stop Ebola," but it will take time, and in the meantime, "our fears are not going to overwhelm our compassion."

"We care for our own. We bring people home if they need to come home, and we will stop the outbreak in Africa, but it's not going to be quick, it's not going to be easy, and it's quite possible we'll see it get worse before it gets better there."

Frieden spoke after one of two Americans known to be infected with the virus returned to the United States from Africa.

Dr. Kent Brantly, a medical missionary with the Christian charity Samaritan's Purse surprised many people by walking into Emory University Hospital in Atlanta on Saturday, wearing protective gear. He's being treated in a special isolation unit. A second aid worker is due to arrive at Emory tomorrow.

Frieden said it's "encouraging" that Brantly seems to be doing so well, and he minimized the risk to other Americans:

"The decision to bring this doctor back home was a decision of the organization that sent him to Africa. He was ill there. They wanted him to come here where they felt he could get the best quality health care. And that's their decision.

"What we do in public health is to make sure that the process of doing that doesn't put others at risk. We isolate the patient so that it doesn't spread during transit or when he's in the hospital."

Frieden said the outbreak eventually will "go away," and it's the job of public health experts to "find the patients, isolate them, find their contacts, track them, and make sure infection control is done meticulously."

Frieden said the summit of African leaders taking place in Washington, D.C., this week should not be canceled because of the Ebola outbreak:

"Absolutely not," he told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace: "You know, we are dependent and we are part of the world. There are 50 million travelers from around the world that come to the U.S. each year that are essential to our economy, to our families, to our communities. We're not going to hermetically seal this country. What we can do is put in place sensible screening procedures.

"But the single most important thing we can do to protect Americans is to stop the spread of disease around the world. That may sound counter-intuitive but the fact is, what we do in public health is stop problems at the source. And the source here is in Africa.

"That's why we're surging and putting 50 CDC disease control specialists on the ground in these three countries to help them find, respond to and stop the spread of the disease."

The Ebola outbreak reportedly has killed at least 729 people in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.