How Do You Solve A Problem Like Ebola? Portman Offers Five-Point Plan

Rob Portman and Barack Obama (pics by Brian Bull); Container ship in Port of Cleveland (pic from Port of Cleveland)
Rob Portman and Barack Obama (pics by Brian Bull); Container ship in Port of Cleveland (pic from Port of Cleveland)
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A high-ranking official to coordinate an Ebola response was first on Portman’s list of five actions to stop Ebola, as shared recently on the Politico website and in The Plain Dealer.

Terry O'Sullivan, a homeland security expert at the University of Akron, agrees naming an Ebola official is a vital step.

“Though if we had the Surgeon General approved by the U.S. Senate that has been on hold for almost a year, that would have been unnecessary," says O'Sullivan. "The Surgeon General performs exactly that type of role basically in the U.S. Government.”

To Portman’s second request…the creation of an Ebola Fund to provide assistance to West Africa – O'Sullivan says that’s important. He says budgets declined for groups like the World Health Organization in recent years that could’ve helped early on.

But O'Sullivan says point number 3 – setting up regional infectious disease centers – is problematic as states may struggle to handle situations where the CDC is more experienced. At a September press conference in Cleveland, CDC Director Tom Frieden said collaboration is ongoing.

“We’ve helped about 10 laboratories around the country develop the capacity to test for Ebola.”

Portman’s fourth idea is to intensively monitor ports of entry, to keep people with Ebola out. Lieutenant David Connor of the US Coast Guard's 9th District, says there are protocols in place. This includes a 96-hour advance notice where ships report their last five stops and if there are potentially hazardous cargo or passengers from afflicted areas.

“For example, if someone on the ship has symptoms, then the Coast Guard would work with the Centers for Disease Control and Customs and Border Protection to review each case on an a case by case basis, and if necessary, restrict the vessel’s movement or withhold entry.”

Lastly, Portman says the White House should invest in innovative ways to monitor, treat, and cure Ebola and other diseases. The University of Akron’s Terry O'Sullivan calls this a “good idea”. He agrees with National Institute of Health officials who say public health funding cuts have hurt progress on an Ebola vaccine.

An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of the University of Akron professor. He is Terry O'Sullivan, not Terry Sullivan.

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