CAPITOL HILL - The first confirmed case of Ebola in the United States has caught the attention of a number of lawmakers, who are asking whether federal and local health systems are equipped to stop the spread of the deadly disease.
Members of the House and Senate are scattered across the country in their home districts until after the November 4 congressional, state and local elections. But several Democratic lawmakers asked for a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee to be called back to deal with the questions raised by the confirmed Ebola illness of a Liberian man who had travelled to Dallas, Texas to visit family.
Democratic Representatives Henry Waxman, Frank Pallone and Diana DeGette asked why a Dallas hospital initially discharged the man and sent him home, even though he had told a nurse of his recent trip from Liberia. The Democrats say the Dallas case should serve as a wakeup call of the need to address the ongoing public health crisis in Africa, and the possibility of more Ebola cases in the United States.
Republican Congressman Tim Murphy announced Friday that he will chair a hearing on the Ebola outbreak on October 16, with the two top U.S. health officials testifying: the Director of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, Tom Frieden, and the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Health, Anthony Fauci.
Murphy said the hearing would look into all aspects of the federal response, including airline passenger screening procedures by Customs and Border Control.
Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration, asking that every available precaution be taken to prevent additional Ebola cases from arriving in the United States.
Cruz pointed out that several African countries have restricted or banned air travel to countries with confirmed cases of the Ebola virus, and said the American public would like to be assured that their travel is not at risk.
Democratic Representative Rosa De Lauro said lawmakers should be prepared to come back to Washington before the elections if necessary to appropriate emergency funds for the CDC to fight the Ebola outbreak in Africa and at home.
Congress approved $30 million last month to deal with the Ebola crisis, but some lawmakers say they fear that may not be enough.