CDC Chief: Ebola ‘Drug Pipeline Is Going to Be Slow, I’m Afraid’

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Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says “it’s really understandable that people are scared” about Ebola, because it’s a “deadly virus” that moves “very, very fast.”

Experimental drugs may help, but — “The drug pipeline is going to be slow, I’m afraid,” Frieden told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

“The most promising drug, ZMapp, there’s no more of it, and it’s hard to make. It takes months to make just a bit. So, many people are working on, can that be accelerated?

“We’re also looking at vaccines. And there are a couple of promising vaccines that are already in initial trials. And if those were available, we would be able to use them for healthcare workers and potentially in other places, if they work. So we’ve got to figure out as quickly as possible whether they work.”

“But even without drugs or vaccines, meticulous clinical care, just restoring the patient’s fluid balance can save a lot of lives.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading expert on infectious diseases at National Institutes of Health, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that there is no more ZMapp.

“Unfortunately, it is difficult to produce,” he said on Sunday. “A lot is being produced right now. It should be ready in a month-and-a-half to two months. We are not going to get it tomorrow or next week. A vaccine to prevent Ebola, we have started a vaccine early phase one trial in the NIH, in Bethesda, Maryland, on September the 2nd, 20 volunteers.

“We should have data as to whether or not it is safe very soon, probably by the end of this calendar year, and then we will go into a larger trial in West Africa.”

Fauci said “it is understandable” that people are afraid of catching this disease.

“If you are in Massachusetts now, and you get a cold, there is almost — there is no chance that you have Ebola, because there is no link between an Ebola case. You have got to look at it in a rational way. The rational way is, you get a case of Ebola, it is isolated, and you do the contact tracing.

“I have heard people say, well, should I be afraid of getting on an airplane in San Francisco? It has nothing to do with Ebola, so you have got to really be rational and have the evidence be the major thing…in your decisions and your concern.”

Fauci said he believes Ebola has been contained in Dallas, where a sick Liberian is now in critical condition.

But he also said it’s “conceivable” that nine people who had close contact with the Liberian man will contact the disease themselves:

“I would not be surprised if one of the people who came into direct contact with Mr. Duncan when he was ill will get Ebola. You can’t say. You can’t put a number on it. It is impossible to do that, but there certainly is a risk. So I don’t think the American public should be surprised if you hear that one of them actually does come down with Ebola.”

‘Not going to spread widely in the U.S.’

On “Meet the Press,” Frieden insisted that U.S. medical experts know how to stop Ebola: “It’s not going to spread widely in the U.S. for two basic reasons,” he said. “We can do infection control in hospitals and we can do public health interventions that stop it in its tracks.”

He said identifying patients’ contacts and monitoring them for 21 days is “how you stop Ebola. That’s how we’ve stopped every outbreak.”

NBC’s Chuck Todd asked Frieden if the U.S. health care system can handle the upcoming flu season, where symptoms may mimic those of Ebola, sending panicked people to the hospital:

“I don’t think we’re going to see a huge number of Ebola patients,” Frieden said, adding that “it’s great” for people who have traveled to West Africa to be evaluated if they do develop symptoms.

“It’s actually a good thing to see more concerns so that we don’t miss a patient and allow it to spread in a cluster in this country.”

Frieden recommended that Americans get flu shots, even if there’s no telling what the flu season will be like:  “That’ll reduce the burden on you and on the healthcare system,” he said.

“But I think our healthcare system certainly has challenges. But it can respond, it has resilience, we have hardworking doctors and nurses, people running the system. And we’re going to learn from each experience and respond even better next time.”

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