Washington, D.C. – In case you missed it, the Cleveland Plain Dealer highlighted U.S. Senator Rob Portman’s (R-Ohio) renewed calls for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to direct U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to enact active screening of travelers demonstrating Ebola symptoms at U.S. ports of entry. This follows the announcement from the CDC that a patient in a Dallas, Texas hospital has tested positive for Ebola.
“Recent events highlight the need for elevated levels of screening at U.S. ports of entry,” Portman stated. “The time for action has come and gone and the CDC has yet to answer why they are resisting this next commonsense step that is long overdue.”
Portman has urged President Obama to appoint one Administration official to coordinate the U.S. strategy to contain and combat Ebola.
In addition to his letter to the President and CDC, Portman requested information from three other federal agencies in an attempt to better equip the U.S. to deal with the humanitarian crisis.
Portman wrote to U.S. Agency for International Development regarding the need to leverage all necessary capabilities within the federal government to combat Ebola.
Portman urged the Office of Management and Budget to provide Congress with an overall picture of the funding and resources that the U.S. has committed to the Ebola crisis.
Portman followed up on his call to DHS last week to develop a plan to ensure the U.S is prepared for any potential pandemics.
Excerpts of the Cleveland Plain Dealer story are below and the full piece can be found here.
Screening for Ebola: Should the U.S. do more to check international travelers? (poll)
By: Stephen Koff
Cleveland Plain Dealer
October 1, 2014
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Americans need not worry about Ebola spreading widely in this country if infected patients arrive from a country in West Africa where the disease has overwhelmed health officials.
But Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, says the United States should do more to screen incoming airline passengers as a cautionary step…
The CDC, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Agency for International Development, Department of Defense and Department of State are all involved, Portman says.
Portman’s desire for a more defensive stance against Ebola in the United States appears to put him at odds with the statements of CDC Director Thomas Frieden. “We’re stopping it in its tracks,” Frieden said at a news conference Tuesday.
Portman is the top Republican on a Senate subcommittee overseeing the effectiveness of homeland security and related programs. He has said for weeks that the United States is doing too little to tell whether passengers arriving on flights from West Africa might be infected or at risk of infection from Ebola.
But Portman says these “passive” checks are inadequate.
He has been asking that all passengers from countries with known outbreaks of Ebola be questioned as they arrive. Just as incoming international passengers are now asked where they have been, whether they are bringing in fruits or vegetables or have been in contact with livestock, travelers from West Africa could be asked if they were in contact with someone with Ebola, Portman’s office says. They could be asked if they have attended a funeral for someone with Ebola.
Portman has made that plea for weeks, including on a call with reporters on Sept. 19. That coincided with the date when, according to the CDC, a passenger with the Ebola virus traveled by plane from Liberia to the United States. The individual only displayed symptoms later, the CDC says, and now is hospitalized in Dallas.
Portman said that day that for passengers entering the United States from parts of the world experiencing Ebola, “there should be active screenings.”
Frieden,the CDC director, said the patient in Dallas did not display symptoms upon exiting West Africa or entering the United States. His symptoms began four days after entering this country.
But Portman says this lack of detection highlights the need for the Department of Homeland Security and its Customs and Border Protection unit to engage in an active screening process.
On Sept. 15, Portman asked the White House Office of Management and Budget to give Congress a complete picture of all funding and resources the United States has dedicated toward the Ebola crisis. He also wrote to the U.S. Agency for International Development, saying that “it is imperative that you are able to leverage all necessary capabilities within the federal government.”