Marco Werman: This Ebola outbreak in West Africa is already the largest ever recorded. More than 700 people dead, as I mentioned earlier, out of 1300+ infected. But those numbers aren't the only thing that make this outbreak different, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci. He directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.
Dr. Anthony Fauci: This virus was first recognized in 1976 and there have been about almost two dozen outbreaks, which are generally many outbreaks in rural areas, anywhere from a couple of people to a few hundred people. What we have here now is a multi-country outbreak, which is not only tucked away in rural areas but has actually now been in cities, so that the capability of this spreading in a much more aggressive way, we're actually witnessing that. So the numbers are the highest ever, that's for sure. It's been across border because of the porous borders. And the countries have such a poor and undeveloped infrastructure for health care that it actually compounds the difficulty because of the spread which we know goes from person to person. So all of those things together really come forth to just give you what historically now is unquestionably the worst Ebola outbreak that we've had since it was first recognized in 1976.
Werman: I don't want to be alarmist about this but what you just said is pretty alarming and in light of the recent death of the Liberian-American, Patrick Sawyer, who took a plane from Liberia for Nigeria en route to the US, he died in Lagos in Nigeria, how probable is it for an infected person to enter the US. How worried should we really be here?
Dr. Fauci: It is certainly conceivable that someone could get infected in a West African country, be without symptoms, get on a plane and wind up landing in the United States. That being the case, the chances of there being an outbreak are extraordinarily low and that's the reason why the CDC and myself and other health officials are saying that you don't want to take things lightly at all and we have to be extremely vigilant, but the conditions that allow for an outbreak like we're seeing in the African countries, are solely related to the lack of the ability to handle patients in an isolated way with the proper protective equipment.
Werman: The United States just issued a travel warning for the three countries largely affected by the outbreak. What other precautions are in place here?
Dr. Fauci: That's it. The first thing is, as the CDC has done, is to increase the travel alert but the other issue - that's for people who are going to these countries. If you look at it on the other side of the coin, is alerting physicians that, if they actually come into contact where a person would come in with symptoms that would be suggestive - one of the things in medicine that you learn and I learned in my first year of medical school, is that take a travel history. First of all, airlines will be alerted that when they're coming from areas such as the West African countries, if someone gets on board and they're getting sick on the plane, obviously you alert the authorities - in this case it would be the CDC. Then, if in fact someone does land and gets sick after they're here, that's when you have to be sure now - and there's a lot of really radar screen - on everybody's radar screen now because of the extraordinary publicity that this is getting, that you're alerted to always asking for a travel history. It's that kind of approach together with the ability to isolate people and to treat them in a way that does not spread - that's why we feel rather confident that we're not going to see an outbreak here, even though there's a possibility that we may have someone travel here who actually is infected.
Werman: Dr. Anthony Fauci is a director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. Thank you for your time.
Dr. Fauci: Thank you. Good to be with you.