FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                Contact:  Heather Handyside

October 17, 2014                                                        (907) 350-4846

Begich Pushes for More Training, Better Enforcement of Protocols to Prevent Spread of Ebola in U.S.
Expanded Health Screenings at International Airports Should Include Anchorage

Demanding a more cohesive strategy to battle the Ebola virus and protect Americans from further exposure, U.S. Senator Mark Begich today welcomed news that President Obama has appointed a point-person to coordinate U.S. efforts.  Begich is also pushing for better outreach to the public and more training and resources for health care providers. 

“After my briefing earlier this week with the CDC, it became clear to me that stronger action in the form of better protocols, and the enforcement of those protocols is absolutely necessary,” said Begich. “An infectious disease outbreak requires multi-agency and departmental coordination and that is why I’m am pleased the President has appointed a so-called czar to help make sure we are focused on preventing an outbreak in the U.S., containing the epidemic in West Africa, responding to suspected domestic cases, and preparing to respond should the disease spread on our shores.” 

In letter to President Obama today Begich expressed grave concern about recent reports of the mishandling of Ebola patients in Dallas.  Begich, who will talk with nurses in Fairbanks today about their level of training with infectious disease protocols, called on the Centers for Disease Control to provide clear direction to providers and public health departments around the country, including updated quarantine procedures and health care worker safety protocol. 

“The CDC and other relevant agencies must provide the necessary education, training, and resources to our health care workers and facilities, to include sanitation workers and support staff, ensuring they are equipped to respond in the small chance there is a local case of Ebola,” said Begich.  “Our brave health care workers are on the front lines of this response.  We must do everything we can to provide them with appropriate training and fail-safe protective equipment.”

Begich also urged the President to continue to assess current West Africa travel policies and to consider sensible travel restrictions and expanded health screenings at international airports, such as Anchorage, to help contain the outbreak in West Africa and prevent the spread in the U.S.  During a briefing with CDC officials earlier this week Begich pressed the CDC to have Ebola test kits, which are currently only being distributed to high risk areas, available in Alaska as a precautionary measure. 


Begich serves on the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, both of which will review new policies and funding for infectious disease prevention when Congress resumes in November.


A copy of the letter is attached.