Frieden: More Protective Gear for Health Care Workers 'Not Always Better'

By Susan Jones | October 15, 2014 | 8:36am EDT

A hazmat worker cleans outside the apartment building of a hospital worker, Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

( - "We're always looking at ways that we can better protect Americans," CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden told Fox News's Megyn Kelly on Tuesday.

But that does not include banning travel to and from West Africa, where Ebola is epidemic, he said. Nor does it include more layers of protective clothing for health care workers.

"You would go into a highly infectious patient's room without covering your head, with only wearing one pair of gloves and with your feet exposed, you would do that?" Kelly asked Frieden.

"Absolutely," Frieden replied. "More is not always better. Better is better. Sometimes you put on more layers, it's harder to put on, harder to take off, you increase your risk of exposure. That's what the science tells us."

Kelly told Frieden that she's looked at the CDC website --"and it says you are only supposed to wear one pair of gloves. And it says, you don't have to cover your head, you know, head gear, head cover, and you don't have to cover your feet. Now, wouldn't you admit that that is insufficient?"

"No," Frieden said. "We know how Ebola spreads. It spreads by direct contact. And you know, sometimes more isn't better. You put on more layers, you put on more things, they're harder to get on. They're harder to get off."

"Really?" Kelly asked.

"Yes, really," Frieden said.

In fact, the CDC recommends that all persons entering the room of an Ebola patient "should wear at least: gloves, gown (fluid resistant or impermeable), eye protection (goggles or face shield), and facemask. The website says, "Additional PPE might be required in certain situations (e.g., copious amounts of blood, other body fluids, vomit, or feces present in the environment), including but not limited to: double gloving, disposable shoe covers, leg coverings.

Kelly asked why Texas Presbyterian Hospital didn't use the "buddy system," where health care workers workers monitor each other to be sure they're correctly putting on and taking off their protective gear.

"The single most important thing to do to keep Ebola care safe is to have a site manager, someone who tracks how people put on and take off their protective equipment in the isolation area," Frieden agree. "That is now in place. I wish it had been in place earlier. It is now in place. And for any hospital in this country, if they have a confirmed case of Ebola, it will be in place there." Frieden said.

Frieden said from now on, a CDC team will be dispatched "within hours" if another case of Ebola is diagnosed. "One of the things they will consider is, should we transfer that patient. We are on the ground to deal with the needs on the ground. Our focus is protecting people. We have people at CDC who devoted their lives to that."

On the topic of a travel ban, Frieden said the CDC has "already recommended that all nonessential travel to these countries be stopped for Americans. We've already put into place screening at the airport where people are leaving and screening at airports where people are arriving here. We're always looking at ways that we can better protect Americans."

Asked how a travel ban would make it harder to stop the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, Frieden said it's "because you can't get people in and out."

What about charter flights? Kelly asked.

"You know, charter flights don't do the same thing commercial airliners do," Frieden said.

"What do you mean? They fly in and out," Kelly said.

"For a week, I sat in Liberia while the Africa Union team that wanted to send hundreds of health care workers was stranded in Senegal because commercial airlines weren't traveling. If we isolate these countries, what's not going to happen is disease staying there. It's going to spread more all over Africa and we'll be at higher risk."

Frieden told Kelly, "there's no doubt in my mind we will not have a large outbreak of Ebola in the U.S."

But by early Wednesday morning, a second Dallas health care worker had contracted the disease and more than 70 others were being monitored.

Also See:

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Does CDC Director Retain Obama's Confidence? 'He Does,' WH Says

CDC Director: 'We Could've Sent a More Robust Hospital Infection Control Team' to Dallas

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