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tv   News  Al Jazeera  October 16, 2014 12:00pm-12:31pm EDT

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in washingtoner i'm ray suarez.
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clear clear who had ebola is causing people not to report cases. also an air france plane wasn't grounded when it landed in madrid after fears that a passenger had ebola.
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spanish television saying that the passenger is said to be of nigerian decent. and the people on the plane have now been given the okay to disembark. mike viqueira is standing by and robert ray at the cdc headquarters in atlanta. mike, i want to start with you. will there be calls for the head of the cdc to resign. >> it's head might not be on the chopping block, dell, but dr. fedr. dr. -- frieden is going to be in the hot seat. we have heard calls to tighten down in a number of areas. first of all an increasing numbering want a travel wan from west africa. public policy makers both at the white house and all around town, experts, what have you have said that could be counterproductive, you mentioned the fact that many of those countries, sierra
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leone, guinea, and liberia that would be counterproductive. it could instill an ever-increasing sense of fear, feed that, and it is simply not the right answer at this point. there are those who are doubtless that will be calling for dr. frieden to go. we have seen him repeatedly. he has assured the public that the american healthcare system was on top of this, that the protocols were in place, that the virus would not spread, and yet it has. you are going to hear from others who say in has created an undue panic. the odds are extremely remote, we heard the president say yesterday -- >> mike? >> yes, del? >> yes, i wanted to let you know we are right now listening to tim murphy. so as he begins i want you to continue and understanding as
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always as that as we do these represents if need be we will cut you off. >> all right. we'll call that the del walters disclaimer. >> the 2-minute warning. >> yes, indeed. we also will hear people defending dr. frieden. many people believe the media coverage as well and many of these calls that we're hearing for travel bans and the like are created an undue fear among the american public, after all the odds as president obama put it when he did cancel that trip to hold an emergency meeting here, he said we do not want to create an atmosphere of fear. there have been calls for a czar to look over this. lisa monaco has been charged with overseeing the american
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response to ebola. and the president in a speech at the cdc, there is also an overseas contingent on this, but an energy czar here to oversea the response statewide. lisa monaco, after all is the homeland security advisor and counter terrorism advisor. many think she obviously has a lot on her plate at this point. there should be others involved as well. so you are likely to hear both of have it real coming from critics those who want to see more restrictions placed around individuals coming from those countries in west africa, and tighter screening all around, and others who are going to be appealing for calm principally from the two witnesses here. >> mike viqueira for us in washington. mike as always please stand by as we wait for the testimony to begin in washington right now.
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also joining us in our studio right now is dr. annie spare row. as you heard mike viqueira say, there are a lot of political concerns in washington. will this improve the situation or will it make things worse? >> well, first of all i think it's very clear that unfortunately dr. frieden has been floundering. he has been very slow to act all along. we have seen that way back in march. and it has taken six months for a response to be mounted. he has been promising there will be no spread, and his assurances we can't have any kind of degree of confidence anymore. >> but the head of the world health organization was on this
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program in february, indicating that we were blowing this out of proportion. saying we were not looking at a crisis in africa, and now we are looking at a crisis in africa. they were saying that the reason the biohazard suits were failing in africa was because they were getting hot, and now we're seeing the same problem here in the united states. >> two things, the assist can't general for merges at the world health organization has also very irresponsible in the incredible slowness to respond to this, which has now spread across several african countries and spread to the u.s. and europe. this has been highly irresponsible both on dr. howard, and the cdc both of whom are supposed to be the
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guardians. so now this is actually fostering the fear because we can't have any confidence in them. and we have seen ebola grow out of control, and it is causing a great deal of concern here in the united states as well as west africa. >> robert ray is live at the cdc headquarters in atlanta. and is there a sense where you are that they realize how many eyes are focused not only on the cdc and its mission, but the cdc and its response to this particular situation that we are seeing right now? >> very much so, del. everyone we have spoken to within the cdc understands the enormity of the situation right now, and the fact that it has been one blunder after the next. as matter of fact someone within the cdc this morning told us that they are reviewing everything, absolutely every protocol that they have put out
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there at this point. emery university hospital behind me, where the second infected nurse was flown to last year here, that nurse as we know boarded a flight in cleveland and then landed in dallas. she had a fever. dr. frieden came out and told the world she should not have gotten on that flight with that fever. and then we find out later in the day that someone within the cdc told the nurse it's okay, get on the flight, come on down to dallas. everything is fine. so who knows what is happening within the cdc. did dr. frieden know that and didn't reveal it in the press conference, or is he misinformed? is the communication that bad? and if so is that why the protocols or so-called protocols were not followed at the dallas hospital and why the nurse's
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union are saying they are not prepared. these are questions that need answers, and hopefully today we get them so this so-called panic in the american public can calm down, and the focus can go back to west africa where thousands of people are infected. the situation in america is alarming. beyond that the real story at this point is over in west africa. i cannot emphasize that enough, del. >> robert ray in atlanta. let's take a brief listen to the testimony happening right now. these are members of congress giving their opening statements. take a listen just for a moment. >> -- by isolating patients, the u.s. healthcare system can prevent isolated cases from becoming broader outbreaks. and that's why i'm glad dr. frieden is with us, and dr. varga will be with us by
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video, because it would be an understatement to say that the response to the first u.s.-based patient with ebola has been mismanaged, causing risks to scores of additional people. i know both of these gentlemen will be transparent and forthright in helping me to understand how we can improve our response, when yet another person shows up at the emergency room with these kind of symptoms. i appreciate the steps taken by cdc and customs to begin airport screenings, and as some call for cutting off all travel as the chairman said this won't be reasonable -- >> dr. sparro as we listen to the testimony, clearly there is anger, but walk us through what the public should be thinking right now, versus what it may be
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thinking. we're talking about a situation in the united states right now, where there may be less than a number of cases of people that might be sitting around your kitchen or living room table for dinner. so we're not talking about a wide-spread outbreak here in america. so how concerned should the american public be and what should they be concerned about? >> we want to have faith in our healthcare systems. we want to be sure that when we go to the emergency room, that, first of all, we're going to be treated properly, and we're not going to be exposed to additional risk. we want to have faith that that is going to work properly. that did not happen for thomas duncan who went to hospital, had a fever, he was from west africa, and he was turned away. one mistake. >> so you think at that point in time that the cdc should have gone in and realized if a
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mistake this grave was made, perhaps the next move was to move mr. duncan to atlanta. >> that would have been appropriate, because the cdc's protocol clearly aren't working. the nurses are saying we don't have any protocols. and protocols are very important. you do have to have them. you have to have a buddy help you, because it's very difficult to protect yourself -- >> and yet, we're still hearing that people don't know what the correct protocol is. how do i take off the suit, how much level of protection do i need, what do i do next? >> well, that's something where the cdc has failed completely to roll that out not only at this hospital, but it means that we need to be very clear about how
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we train our nurses to go forward, because it's the nurses on the front line that are key here. these are the two nurses here and the nurse in spain who have caught the virus from an infected patient. >> is it concerning to you that ebola has been around since 1976 in virginia, and in that case we were talking about monkeys, but that's where all of the ebola fear began with the book "out break," and the movie came out, and they were talking about how fast it would spread. but this is not a new disease. does it bother you that there seems to be a learning curve that began just last month? >> of course. and there are many of us who have been jumping up and down about ebola for many, many months. there are other infectious diseases out there that are really on the rise.
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and we're seeing a global spread in this the planet of the microbes and we're seeing a failure in the world health organization, and the cdc. and as we saw the other day, the u.n. security council said this is a threat to international peace and security. so it is causing that fear amongst the american public, because we have seen it travel from africa f after 40 years to two more continents. and we could have had a vaccine for this ten years ago, but it was always an african disease, so we didn't care enough, because there wasn't enough money into it. and the world health organization put money into e-cigarettes instead of ebola. >> mike viqueira in washington, is there a larger concern that in this day, post september 11th, when so many people believed that we were protecting
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ourselves against various types of biohazards for instance, that with all of the safeguards and protections that we assumed were in place, that we're now looking at this type of situation? >> you know, it's an interesting point del, and i think they are parallel to the larger situation here. we're entering a political realm where reason takes a backseat, and emotion takes over, visceral issues, and we are just under three weeks from a midterm election, and the stakes couldn't be higher. that's sort of parallel to the way the americans are reacting in the case, and the threat and lack of preparedness, it is still relatively few people, and the outbreak and the epidemic is centered in west africa, where there is a dire threat to public health, economies and political stability there as a result. and talking about the political
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dimension to this, del, representative corey gardner of colorado. he flew back to washington. he is locked in a neck and neck race, he is running against the democrat there, mark udall, he is really making a race of it. it is one of those races from around the country that the country is looking at. gardner -- this is free publicity. he can come here and be on this panel. it is an idea of how big of a political issue this is. and one other thing we're likely to hear that has directly to do with congress, you are going to hear a lot of democrats talk about the research budgets, the cdc and other budgets having been cut in the last several years. and many in charge and in the
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chain of command here have laid the blame directly for the lack of a vaccine or medicines to treat ebola on the fact that the research has not been done because the budgets have been cut, del. >> mike viqueira, stand by. we're going to dip back into our coverage of the hearing taking place on capitol hill. again, these are members of congress giving their opening statements. and so far there has been bipartisan condemnation in the response to ebola. take a listen. >> -- issued a report on personal protective equipment, and antiviral measures. the department of homeland security did not adequately conduct a needs assessment prior to purchasing supplies and did not effectively manage its stockpile. this just illustrates how unprepared that we are. we have to get this right. i would like to yield the balance of my time to ms. blackburn from tennessee.
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>> thank you doctor. and yes, indeed welcome to all of our witnesses. everyone has mentioned we're here to work with you to protect americans, and that includes the care givers, and by that i mean the men and women working on the front lines, the screaming eagles of the 101st. i will yield back my time. >> thank you. i would now like to introduce -- i'm sorry, first i go to mr. waxman, i apologize. >> thank you mr. chairman. i am pleased to have this opportunity -- >> mike, one more question as we listen to the last member of congress who will be giving their opening statements, and that is, is there, i guess, a sense that congress might be partily to blame with what we're seeing with the cdc, partly because the budget has been cut, and this has been one of the
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least-productive congresses in the history of the united states? >> well, i think the two are somewhat related, although not directly related. i think the budget issue is much more germane to the subject of this hearing right now. but i think we're probably beyond that at this point. as the doctor was outlining, and we have heard critics from both sides of the aisle there, i was surprised to hear the top ranking democrat on this committee really get out after the cdc, while not calling for dr. frieden to go, really getting out after the cdc for their performance thus far. this is an agency from dr. frieden on down that has repeatedly assured the public that the american medical system has the protocol, technology, and techniques in place to limit what we have seen thus far and perhaps crystallized in the moment when the c dc ef
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dendenth -- evidently that allowed that nurse to get on that airplane. that is really sort of a pivot point in this debate now, over not only who is responsible but whether or not certain individuals are up to the job. del? >> doctor, i'll give you the chance to give your last thoughts. how much of what has gone wrong was simply a matter of common sense. after all you have a man who comes in with a thick liberian accent, says he has travelled to liberia. he is on his way back from liberia, and he is not feeling well, and yet he is given antibiotics and sent home. how does that happen? >> i think that happens, first of all because of inadequate preparedness in the er.
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it also happens because he was from liberia. he was a -- an african american, and we all know that there is a racial dimension to ebola. these -- these -- just like hiv it's fuelled by human rights abuses, the fear, the stigma, the race, those who aren't able to demand better treatment. he was falsely reassured and sent home. as i said he presented with a fever and with a travel history. he should have been tested. he should have at least been given treatment for malaria. and secondly, when he did represent, the protocol that should have been in place, should have been infallible. where -- >> so the red flag should have gone up? this >> absolutely. absolutely. and it is very, very unfair for dr. frieden to blame the nurses -- >> and i have robert ray in
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atlanta, and he is frantically trying to get our attention. >> let me say this. the red flag should have gone up, and the unfortunate part is now the white flag is up in dallas. they just sent two nurses over to dallas to conduct protocol procedures to show people how it is done. this is a university, one of four hospitals in the country that have those specialized quarantine units that can take people with an infectious virus in. so perhaps the second that this man was identified, thomas eric duncan as having the infection, they should have flown him here to atlanta or omaha. why did they think they were equipped to do that? the materials they put on is not even close to what we're seeing
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in africa, and the cdc's training program that we witnessed in alabama last week, which was full guard, and the process of getting it on and off, so what was everyone thinking? why did the cdc allow that to occur? why did the state of texas allow that to occur? and why did a hospital that was not even close to being prepared to handle this virus allow that to happen? the breakdown is startling, del, absolutely. and we hope to get those answers in washington. and they need to be put under fire. because americans deserve that, and those folks in west africa they deserve it. they are the voiceless right now. no one is paying attention to them, and there's not enough money going in there, and the infrastructure is not there, even though our troops are there building facilities, and will they be safe as well? >> robert i'm glad you are
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wrapping up, because they are now introducing the witnesses. this is the house energy sub commit fee on oversight and investigations. let's listen in. >> -- the assistant commissioner for counter terrorism pollty at the food and drug administration. john p wagner at the office of field operations within u.s. customs and border protection. and joining us today on video conference from texas will be dr. daniel varga, who is a senior vice president at the texas health resources. i'll now swear in the witnesses. do any of you have any objections taking testimony und under oath?
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>> no. >> no. >> and dr. varga? >> no. >> the chair advises you, you are entitled to be advised by counsel. do any of you desire that today? >> no. >> no. >> no. >> okay. everyone answers no. >> in that case will you all rise and raise your right hand, and i'll swear you in. do you swear the testimony you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. >> i do. >> i do. >> i do. >> thank you. thank you, doctor. you are now under oath and subject to the united states code. we'll call upon you each to give a 5-minute opening summary of your written statement. dr. frieden you are recognized for five minutes. >> thank you very much chairman, ranking members, i very much appreciate the opportunity to come before you to discuss the
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ebola epidemic, and our response it to, to protect americans. my name is dr. tom frieden. i'm trained as a physician, trained in internal medicine, and infection diseases, i completed the cdc training, and i have worked in the control of diseases -- communicable diseases and others since 1990. ebola spreads only by direct contact with the patient who is sick with the disease or has died from it, or with their body fluids. ebola is not new, although it is new to the u.s. we know how to control ebola. even in this period, even in nigeria, we have been able to contain the outbreak. we do that by tried and true measures of finding the patients promptly. isolating them effectively.
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identifying their contacts, ensuring that if any contact becomes ill, they are rapidly identified, isolated, and their contacts are identified. but there are no shortcuts in the control of ebola, and it is not easy to control it. to protect the united states, we have to stop it at the source. there is a lot of fear of ebola, and i will tell you, as the director of cdc, one of the things i fear about ebola is that it could spread more widely in africa. if this were to happen, it could become a threat to our health system, and the health care we give for a long time to come. our top priority, our focus is to work 24/7 to protect americans. that's our mission. we protect americans from
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threats and in the case of ebola, we do that by a system at multiple levels. in addition to our efforts to control the disease at the source, we have helped each of affected countries establish exit screening, so that every person leaving has their temperature taken. in the two-month period of august and september, we identified 74 people with fever. none of them entered the airport or boarded the plane. that was one level of safety. recently, we have added another level of screening people on arrival to the u.s. that identifies anyone with fever here, and we have worked very closely with the department of homeland security, and customs and border protection to implement that program, and i would be happy to provide further details of it later. we have also increased awareness
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among physicians throughout the u.s. for anyone who has fever and -- or other systems of infection, and who has been to west africa in the previous 21 days. we have established laboratory services throughout the country, so not all laboratory tests have to come to the specialized laboratory in the cdc, in fact one of those laboratories in austin, texas identified the first case here. we have fielded call from doctors and healthcare professionals throughout the country. and only one patient had ebola. but that's one too many. and we're open to ideas for what we can do to keep americans as safe as possible as long as the outbreak is continuing. we also have established emergency rese