An American doctor who contracted Ebola and survived, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other witnesses testified at a hearing held by the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Africa and global health subcommittee, Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04).
“We live in a world that is increasingly interconnected, and Ebola has demonstrated that our neighbor’s problems can soon become our problems,” said Smith convened the hearing, entitled “Global Efforts to Fight Ebola,” bringing some of the nation’s top officials involved in the crisis together to testify at the congressional hearing on the unprecedented outbreak of the Ebola. He held a hearing on Ebola in August with the head of the CDC, and high-level officials at the State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development and other experts who called for world action to contain the growing threat of Ebola. “Ebola not only challenges the collective ability of the world community to meet the demands it poses, it threatens the progress made over the last decade by African countries in overcoming conflict and improving economic development,” Smith said. “Even after this outbreak is finally brought under control, its damage will be seen in lowered gross domestic product and diminished foreign investment.”
He said the epidemic has shown that officials must not be complacent about weak governance or health care systems.Smith said he will soon introduce a bill to address the emergency and ongoing needs in the fight to contain the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
Since he contacted Ebola less than two months ago, Dr. Kent Brantly testified that the death toll from Ebola has tripled.
“At that rate of growth, there will be hundreds of thousands of deaths within the next nine months,” Brantly said. “Agencies like the World Health Organization remain bound up by bureaucracy. Their speeches, proposals, and plans—though noble—have not resulted in any significant action to stop the spread of Ebola. The U.S. government must take the lead immediately to save precious African lives and protect our national security.”
Wednesday, Smith hosted two expert panels. Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly, M.D., Medical Missionary at Samaritan’s Purse led off one panel, which also included Chinua Akukwe, M.D., Chair, Africa Working Group, National Academy of Public Administration, and Ted Alemayhu, Founder & Executive Chairman, US Doctors for Africa.
Leading off the testimony of the other panel were the Director of the Office of Counterterrorism and Emerging Threats-Office of the Chief Scientist at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Luciana Borio, M.D.; Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health , Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.; Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance U.S. Agency for International Development, Nancy Lindborg; and Director of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Beth P. Bell, M.D., all of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Click here to read or watch the rest the testimonies.
Dr. Borio said the Ebola epidemic in West Africa is the worst in recorded history. The FDA has a critical role in helping to facilitate the development, manufacturing, and availability of investigational products for use against the Ebola virus disease, she said.
“FDA is actively working to facilitate development of treatments and vaccines with the potential to help mitigate this epidemic,” Borio said. “The investigational vaccines and treatments for Ebola are in the earliest stages of development and have not been tested for safety or effectiveness in humans. Currently, there are only small amounts of some experimental products that have been manufactured for testing. This constrains our options for both properly assessing safety and efficacy of these investigational products in, and making material available for, therapeutic use.”
Dr. Fauci at NIH said that research into treatment, including potential vaccines is underway.
“Infection with Ebola virus typically causes fever, severe vomiting diarrhea, rash profound weakness, electrolyte loss, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases internal and external bleeding,” said Dr. Fauci, director of NIH. “Accurate and assessable diagnostics for Ebola virus infection are needed for the rapid identification and treatment of patients in an outbreak because symptoms of Ebola can be easily mistaken for other common causes of fever in affected areas, such as malaria.”
This hearing was the second in a series of hearings Smith held, following the emergency hearing on August 7th.