Last week, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations called members back to the Hill during the annual summer district work period for an emergency hearing, “Combating the Ebola Threat.”
It is uncommon for a congressional committee to call members back to Washington while Congress is in recess, however Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) thanked subcommittee Chairman Chris Smith (R-NJ) for calling the hearing in a statement saying, “the House is not in session this week, but given the extraordinary circumstances of the outbreak in West Africa, this hearing is absolutely warranted.”
The emergency hearing addressed the worsening Ebola outbreak in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and now Nigeria. Nearly 1,000 people have died from the deadly virus since the first case was reported in March. If the virus continues to spread at this pace, it could likely outnumber the total number of cases in previous outbreaks combined. Two American aides working in Liberia have been infected and returned to the United States for treatment at Emory University Hospital.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, testified at the subcommittee hearing Aug. 7, asserting that he is confident the United States is prepared to contain the virus, should it travel here. He maintained that all major U.S. hospitals are capable of rapidly isolating patients to prevent spread of the disease. The World Health Organization had declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.