Rep. Wolf on Ebola Crisis: ‘This Should Be ... Top Priority for the White House’

By Penny Starr | August 7, 2014 | 8:25 PM EDT

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) spoke at a House hearing on Aug. 7, 2014 on the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa. ( Starr)

( – Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) said the Ebola outbreak in West Africa should be a “top priority” for the Obama administration.

“This should be a ... very top priority of the White House – the political leadership of the nation,” Wolf told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee at an emergency hearing on Thursday.

“The American people deserve to know what the government is doing to prevent the spread of this epidemic and keep the country safe,” said Wolf, who was invited to participate in the hearing, given his membership in the House Appropriations Committee that funds agencies responding to the threat.

Wolf said that when news of the outbreak spread, he contacted the White House, the State Department, Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control.

“I was concerned no one could tell me who was in charge within the administration on this issue,” Wolf said. “No one could explain what action would be taken to ensure the U.S. was prepared to respond.”

Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control, spoke about the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa at a House hearing on Aug. 7, 2014. ( Starr)

Wolf said there has been progress on addressing the Ebola threat in recent days, but “it’s clear the government is still trying to catch up.”

Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, testified at the hearing that he does not see Ebola as a threat to the U.S., and he laid out three steps to stopping the virus, which has infected more than 1,700 people and killed more than 900 people in Nigeria, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

There are no vaccines or a cure for the Ebola virus at this time – believed to be caused by consuming infected monkey meat or fruit bats -- but Frieden spoke with confidence about stopping its spread.

“First, we can stop Ebola,” Frieden said. “We know how to do it.

“Second, we have to stop it at the source in Africa,” Frieden said. “That’s the only way to get control.

“And third, we have to stop it at the source through tried and true means; with core public health interventions that work,” Frieden said, adding that that includes identifying infected people, isolating them and tracking down all of their contacts.

Frieden also said that there is not a quick solution to the Ebola outbreak.

“The fact is, it will be a long and hard fight,” Frieden said.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chairman of the subcommittee, said in his prepared remarks that he has introduced the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act, or H.R. 4847, to “achieve cost-effective and sustainable treatment, control and, where possible, elimination of neglected tropical diseases.”