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House Subcommittee Holds Hearing to Examine Response to Ebola Outbreak

October 17, 2014—The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Oct. 16 held a hearing to discuss the United States’ response to the Ebola outbreak. Members heard testimony from a range of federal agencies involved in the response as well as Chief Clinical Officer and Senior Vice President of Texas Health Resources Daniel Varga, M.D. Texas Health Resources includes Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas (THD), where the first Ebola patient in the U.S. was treated and where two nurses caring for the patient contracted the virus.

In his opening remarks Subcommittee Chair Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) said, “With no vaccine or cure, we are facing down a disease for which there is no room for error. We cannot afford to look back at this point in history and say we could have done more… The legislative and executive branches of this government are one team and we will fight this together…” Chairman Murphy also urged the agencies responding to the outbreak to notify Congress of the resources or authorizations needed to “stop Ebola in its tracks.”

During the hearing several Subcommittee members expressed concern for health care workers “on the front lines” both domestically and in West Africa and about the process and timeline for detecting and containing the disease. Agencies present shared they are working together and with the private sector to create tests to detect the virus earlier and to speed the development and approval of experimental vaccines.

Other reoccurring topics discussed include if the nurses contracted the virus from a breach in protocol or a lack of protocol, and whether or not international travel bans would improve or impair efforts to contain and combat the virus.

Additionally, several members expressed concern that budget cuts to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other public health and preparedness programs have hampered the nation’s progress in mitigating and stopping the disease, and impacted the development of an Ebola vaccine. In particular, Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) requested a hearing for the subcommittee to focus specifically on the funding needs of NIH and CDC, and for the nation’s public health infrastructure.

Chairman Murphy noted the subcommittee will hold a follow up hearing in November, but did not provide specifics on topics they plan to discuss or timing.

Federal officials testifying at the hearing included: CDC Director Thomas Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.; NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci, M.D.; Director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robin Robinson, Ph.D.; Assistant Commissioner for Counterterrorism Policy at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Luciana Borio, M.D.; and John Wagner, Acting Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations at the Customs and Border Protection at the Department of Homeland Security.


Alexandra Khalife
Legislative Analyst
Telephone: 202-828-0418


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