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CEDAR RAPIDS - Rather than combat Ebola with politics, Sen. Tom Harkin called for establishing outposts of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in key locations around the world to prevent and combat epidemics and pandemics.
'It's very bothersome,” Harkin said Tuesday about what he sees as the politicization of Ebola.
He's particularly upset with action and comments by members of Congress and the governors of New York and New Jersey, as well as media coverage of the small number of Ebola cases in this country.
Stop air travel? Close down a bowling alley visited by a doctor later diagnosed with Ebola?
'This is nuts,” Harkin told The Gazette Editorial Board.
There CDC and World Health Organization sty there is no reason to stop air travel, and closing the bowling alley isn't necessary because the Ebola virus can live only an hour or two before dying.
'Washing out bowling alleys? This is raising fear in people,” he said.
A better approach would be for the U.S. to establish CDC-like outposts in African and Asian nations that don't have similar agencies either because they don't have the funds to support those agencies, according to Harkin.
In military terms, he said, 'these would be our outposts against virus outbreaks around the world.”
However, he's concerned that in the lame duck session of Congress after the election, the Obama administration will seek funding only to deal with the current Ebola situation.
As chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, Harkin plans to budget money for a five-year development of the CDC outposts. He wants state-of-the-art facilities and personnel, and to train epidemiologists in those countries 'who speak the language and are culturally sensitive” who will be able to respond at the first signs of an outbreak.
It's Ebola today, but that's not Harkin's only concern. The CDC says nearly 23,000 people die each year from flu in this country.
'Have we forgotten about bird flu? H1N1?” he asked. 'That virus still is around and viruses, as we know, mutate.” It spread more easily and can jump from animals to humans.
'If that thing ever gets going, it will make Ebola look like a picnic,” Harkin warned.
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