White House Confident It Can Prevent Ebola Outbreak

Sunday Show Roundup: Response to Ebola patient in Dallas comes under scrutiny

Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tom Frieden / AP
October 5, 2014

Thomas Eric Duncan, the first and only person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, is currently in critical condition, and "fighting for his life," according to Dr. Tom Frieden, the Director of the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

"As of now, the man in Dallas [Texas], who’s fighting for his life, is the only patient to develop Ebola in the U.S. We know that there are going to be other concerns and rumors and we’ll track everyone one of those down. We want people to be concerned, but appropriately concerned, about people who have the travel and the symptoms that might suggest they need testing for Ebola, and if they do we’ll get that testing done promptly," Frieden said on CNN’s "State of the Union."

Government and health officials have scrambled to quell public fears since Duncan was diagnosed late last week.

Officials received criticism over how Duncan’s case is being handled, after it was reported that Duncan was initially misdiagnosed and then authorities were slow to sanitize and clean the apartment he stayed in, with four other people, when exhibiting symptoms.

However, officials maintained that while there may be additional cases, there will not be an outbreak in the U.S., and they are confident they can handle the situation.

"There’s no country in the world better prepared than the United States to deal with this. We have the best public health infrastructure and the best doctors in the world. We've been preparing for this eventuality since the outbreak in West Africa started seven months ago," said White House Senior Adviser Dan Pfeiffer.

"I think one of your challenges here is a trust deficit that has been created over the last eighteen months," noted NBC’s Chuck Todd, outlining a list of "government gaps" from failures at the border with child migrants to the Veteran Affairs scandal to underestimating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).

"Why should we trust that what you’re saying about the CDC—[that they are] able to handle this? You understand why there’s more skepticism than normal," said Todd.

Pfeiffer dismissed those concerns.

"People have been growing skeptical of institutions for a long time, including government, but people should know that in everyone of the situations you mentioned we deal with it quickly. We deal with it forcefully to make sure it doesn’t happen," Pfeiffer said.

Julie Pace, the White House correspondent for the Associated Press, said on Fox News Sunday that White House officials do worry about the public losing confidence in the administration, and it is not surprising that less Americans trust them.

"We have seen this for years for several years, where when you look at polling, most Americans—it’s upwards of 60, 70 percent—think that this country is headed in the wrong direction, and that’s more than just economic numbers or what’s happening overseas. It’s a sense that the government simply can’t handle major problems," Pace said.

"If you’re an American out there in the country and you look at all these things happening, you can’t help but question your government’s ability to manage them,"

Pace noted that in their defense of those claims, the White House would likely point to "steps they’re taking to prevent Ebola from becoming an outbreak here," and Pfeiffer did just that saying that the White House is taking proactive steps to combat the disease both in the U.S. and in Africa.

"The only way to deal with this is to stop it at it’s source, which is why we’re deploying up to, around, 3,000 troops there … no one is better at commanding control and logistics than the U.S. military, and they’re going to make a huge difference over there. It’s going to take some time, it’s going to take a lot of work, but it’s the right step to take," he said.

Currently, 231 U.S. troops are in West Africa to fight the disease and another 1,400 are expected to deploy this month.

There is no cure for the disease, and the CDC said a vaccination is not close to being ready.

Frieden said they are evaluating "promising vaccines that are already in initial trials," but ultimately "the drug pipeline is going to be slow."

"The most promising drug, Zmapp, there’s no more of it and it’s hard to make, it takes months to make just a bit," Frieden told NBC. "But even without drugs or vaccines, clinical meticulous care, just restoring a patient’s fluid balance can save a lot of lives."