Robert Hurt: Protecting health, safety in face of Ebola crisis requires more action

Robert_HurtOver the past several weeks, our office has received numerous calls and emails from constituents who are concerned about the growing threat of the spread of Ebola in the United States and abroad.  They are concerned not only because of the seriousness of the disease and how easily it can spread, but also with the failure of the agencies responsible for maintaining the public health to take the proactive steps needed to prepare for a domestic case of the disease.  I share my constituents’ concerns and frustrations and hope that additional action will be taken to contain the disease, prevent further incidences, and reestablish the public’s confidence in these agencies ability to keep us safe.

The House has been engaged on the dangers of Ebola since August, holding more than a dozen oversight hearings to assess the situation and the federal response. This past week, the Energy and Commerce Committee held a key hearing at which officials from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other federal agencies involved in the response testified about what they are doing to prevent the spread of Ebola.  It is clear that these agencies could have been more proactive earlier on in the process to prepare hospitals and healthcare workers, as well as transit and transportation systems, on the protocols needed to contain any cases of the disease.

While I appreciate that these agencies are working to combat this threat and have taken positive steps like enhancing screening measures at international airports and increasing training for hospitals and medical personnel, more needs to be done to ensure the safety of our citizens.  We need to evaluate and implement additional tactics, including a temporary ban for travelers from affected West African countries, stronger quarantining practices, and fast-track review of potential treatments for Ebola.

These officials also have a responsibility to keep the American people properly informed about the situation.  They should not withhold information for fear of “inciting panic.”  The American people know they must remain calm and rational about the disease, but they also want to be informed and vigilant so they can do their part in ensuring the disease is contained.

Here in Virginia, I am pleased that our public health officials and hospitals and medical personnel are taking action to be prepared and help mitigate this situation. Medical professionals in the Commonwealth are also educating the public about the disease, and researchers at the University of Virginia have been instrumental in unlocking new discoveries about the virus as they work toward a cure.  I am committed to working closely with local, state, and federal partners to ensure the government is doing what is needed to fulfill its core responsibility to keep the public safe.

If you need any additional information, please visit my website at or call my Washington office: (202) 225-4711, Charlottesville office: (434) 973-9631, Danville office: (434) 791-2596, or Farmville office: (434) 395-0120.

Robert Hurt represents the Fifth District of Virginia in Congress.

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