Both men said that in addition to stopping the current outbreak, increased funding could have a significant effect on devastated healthcare systems in West Africa and other parts of the world where insufficient or nonexistent healthcare can exacerbate the spread of disease.
More than 17,000 people are now infected with Ebola in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization, and more than 6,000 people have died. Though cases have slowed in Liberia, they have jumped in neighboring Sierra Leone and moderately increased in Guinea, the WHO said.
The federal government's response to the epidemic accelerated after a Liberian man visiting the United States became the first person to die of the disease in this country. Later, two nurses who treated the man were hospitalized with the virus, but they recovered. Since then, an American doctor returning from Guinea has also recovered from the virus, but a surgeon from Sierra Leone who was transferred to an American hospital has died.
Five U.S. airports that handle much of the incoming traffic from Ebola-stricken countries now screen for the virus, and state health departments have established 21-day monitoring programs for travelers returning from West Africa. This month, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that 35 hospitals across the country had established Ebola treatment wings, saying that 80% of returned travelers at risk for Ebola infection now live within 200 miles of a designated hospital.
More than 3,000 U.S. personnel are also active in West Africa, focused on building treatment centers and conducting training and testing.
"Fear is a raw emotion," he said. "I saw it in spades in the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We go through risks every day of our lives ... but you don't like a new risk even if you are living with many, many risks."