Burwell: Ebola Crisis Will Get Worse In The US

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Despite the CDC’s best screening measures, Ebola will continue to spread in the U.S., Health and Human Services secretary Sylvia Burwell said Thursday.

“We’ve had one case, and I think there may be other cases, and I think we need to recognize that as a nation,” Burwell said at a media breakfast hosted by Health Affairs and Kaiser Health News.

The epidemics in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are also likely to get worse before they get better.

“The numbers are going to increase before we can get to a leveling off point,” she said.

Even so, the administration is confident that the U.S. health-care system can handle the disease.

“I don’t think we’re making a claim that anything is 100 percent secure, but what’s most important is we know how to contain,” Burwell said. “And that is detect, contact tracing, isolation and treatment.”

Burwell emphasized the CDC’s training for American medical professionals on how to tackle the disease — 8,000 doctors have watched CDC webinars on Ebola.

The CDC announced Wednesday that it will soon begin enhanced screening procedures at five large airports that receive flights from West Africans countries daily. But these measures won’t detect all cases of Ebola — and wouldn’t have caught the first American case of the disease. (RELATED: New CDC Ebola Screening Wouldn’t Have Detected First US Case)

The extra measures will include more detailed questionnaires when patients are arriving. Burwell noted Thursday that some travelers’ responses may change once they’ve actually arrived in the U.S.

“How a person may answer a question at a point of departure and a point of entrance may differ,” Burwell said. But “the most important place with regard to taking care of screening is actually at the place of departure.”

If the CDC’s screening efforts are unlikely to detect many Ebola cases, they’re likely to be more successful as part of the administration’s public relations effort, to lower the public’s fear of the disease.

Burwell noted that although she’s “had an Ebola meeting every day since July 28,” the administration is focusing on putting medical doctors — primarily the National Institute of Health’s Dr. Tony Fauci and CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden — in the public eye, hoping the experts will be better at calming fears.

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