Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said there is “no doubt” Donald J. Trump will be confronted with a surprise infectious disease outbreak during his presidency.
Fauci has led the NIAID for more than 3 decades, advising the past five United States presidents on global health threats from the early days of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s through to the current Zika virus outbreak.
During a forum on pandemic preparedness at Georgetown University, Fauci said the Trump administration will not only be challenged by ongoing global health threats such as influenza and HIV, but also a surprise disease outbreak.
“The history of the last 32 years that I have been the director of the NIAID will tell the next administration that there is no doubt they will be faced with the challenges their predecessors were faced with,” he said.
While observers have speculated since his election about how Trump will respond to such challenges, Fauci and other health experts said Tuesday that preventing disease pandemics often starts overseas and that a proper response means collaboration between not only the U.S. and other countries, but also the public and private health sectors.
“We will definitely get surprised in the next few years,” he said.
‘Risks have never been higher’
Trump, the real estate developer-turned-Republican politician, has worried some infectious disease experts with controversial and sometimes unclear views on certain health issues.
Ronald Klain, who coordinated the U.S.’s Ebola response for the Obama administration, said Trump’s virtual silence about the Zika outbreak and harsh comments about American volunteers infected during the West African Ebola outbreak is “not the kind of leadership we need in our next president.”
“It’s hard to think of a more important time to show a willingness to speak out in the public health community and the global health community than it is right now on the eve of Donald Trump becoming our next president,” Klain said. “The risks have never been higher, and the question of his perspective on these issues has never been more dubious than it is with Donald Trump.”
Fauci and others noted some of the disease outbreaks that recent administrations have faced, including current President Barack Obama, whose administration was tested early on with an H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009. More recently, the administration was forced to repurpose almost $600 million in federal funds set aside for the Ebola outbreak when Republicans rejected Obama’s request for $1.9 billion to fund the nation’s Zika response.
Current Deputy Homeland Security Advisor Amy Pope, JD, said it was “typical” of the U.S. government that money meant for the Ebola epidemic was appropriated for Zika because of the proclivity of populations to worry about what is currently threatening them.
“We shouldn’t ask the American public to make those choices in the future,” she said. “It doesn’t keep them safe.”
Klain said pandemic preparedness should be approached from a nonpartisan angle. A Democrat, he referenced Republican President George W. Bush founding the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and said Republican Senators Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham collaborated with the Obama administration on the Ebola response.
“The mosquitoes don’t know if they’re biting Democrats or Republicans,” Klain said. “They don’t know what party you are.”
According to some of the experts who spoke on Tuesday, preparing the U.S. for pandemics requires proper funding and starts by battling disease outbreaks overseas. This is not just the right thing to do, but the best way to keep Americans safe, Klain said.
“There is no safety for us and our populace when infectious diseases rage,” he said. “The only way the American people can have safety and security in their lives is to promote safety and security around the world.”
Some other highlights from the forum:
Hamid Jafari, MD, acting director of the Division of Global Health Protection at the CDC, said the CDC has been productive during past presidential transitions and expects the same will be true as control of the White House passes from Obama to Trump: “We have room for optimism that there will be continuing support,” he said.
Pope said there is no playbook for fighting emerging infectious diseases: “We never know what’s going to hit us, so we need to be prepared as possible,” she said.
According to Pope, some in the health community are wary about working with the security community because they think it will be detrimental to their work, when the opposite is true: “Marrying these communities actually leads to more resources and more attention,” she said.
Bill Steiger, PhD, chief program officer of Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon and former director of the HHS Office of Global Health Affairs, said his first piece of advice for the incoming administration would be to budget time for HHS to focus on things other than domestic health issues, because a larger problem is inevitable: “Some international global health crisis will happen that will divert that attention. It has happened over and over again,” he said.
Steiger said the global health agenda, including programs like PEPFAR, is an “easy win” for the new administration: “Expand the funding if available, but at a minimum keep it going,” he said.
Fauci said he is in favor of a public health emergency fund that would be used to combat outbreaks like those involving Ebola and Zika: “It’s tough to get it … but we need it. What we had to go through with Zika was very, very painful when the president asked for $1.9 billion in February and we didn’t get [funding] until September.”
Near the end, Fauci speculated about the possibility that there will be a resurgence of Zika this summer. The virus has caused many travel-related cases in the U.S. and some locally acquired cases in Florida and Texas. Fauci said other concerns for the Trump administration include the potential for a new influenza pandemic and outbreaks of diseases that are not yet on anyone’s radar.
“What about the things we are not even thinking about?” he said. “No matter what, history has told us definitively that [outbreaks] will happen because [facing] infectious diseases is a perpetual challenge. It is not going to go away. The thing we’re extraordinarily confident about is that we’re going to see this in the next few years.” – by Gerard Gallagher
Disclosures: Fauci, Jafari and Pope report no relevant financial disclosures. Infectious Disease News was unable to confirm relevant financial disclosures for Klain and Steiger at the time of publication.
NIH Expert Fauci: Coronavirus 'No Worry' for Americans
As media reports increase the awareness, if not hysteria, of the coronavirus outbreak in China, a top U.S. heath official is tamping down on the perceived threat to Americans.
"It isn't something the American public needs to worry about or be frightened about, because we have ways of preparing and screening of people coming in [from China]," National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci told "The Cats Roundtable" on 970 AM-N.Y., per The Hill.
"And we have ways of responding – like we did with this one case in Seattle, Washington, who had traveled to China and brought back the infection."
There are thus far only two cases in the U.S. among the 1,320 confirmed worldwide, according to The World Health Organization (WHO) Saturday, The Hill reported.
"It's a very, very low risk to the United States, but it's something that we as public health officials need to take very seriously," Fauci added to host John Catsimatidis, per The Hill.
A NIAID vaccine for the coronavirus would be about three months away from being ready to test on humans, according to Fauci.
"We've just got to make sure that we are totally prepared," Fauci said, per the report. "Infectious diseases will continue to emerge on the human species. And we've got to be essentially perpetually prepared."
Top disease official: Risk of coronavirus in USA is 'minuscule'; skip mask and wash hands
Jayne O'Donnell, USA TODAY Published 5:26 p.m. ET Feb. 17, 2020 | Updated 11:41 a.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020
The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases discusses coronavirus. He says to skip the masks and take flu precautions.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be testing for the coronavirus in people in five major cities who show up at clinics with flu-like symptoms but who test negative for the seasonal varieties.
If that testing shows the virus has slipped into the country in places federal officials don't know about, "we've got a problem," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told USA TODAY's Editorial Board Monday.
Short of that, Fauci says skip the masks unless you are contagious, don't worry about catching anything from Chinese products and certainly don't avoid Chinese people or restaurants.
"Whenever you have the threat of a transmissible infection, there are varying degrees from understandable to outlandish extrapolations of fear," Fauci said.
Government agencies, including Fauci's own at the National Institutes of Health, are being inundated with calls and emails from nervous people, just as they were during the Ebola and SARS scares.
Fauci recalled how a nurse who was infected with Ebola took a flight to Ohio because she was asymptomatic and not at risk of infecting anyone. People everywhere suddenly thought all planes were unsafe.
"I was getting calls from people in Sacramento saying, 'Can I get on an airplane to go to Seattle?'" Fauci said. "Like, what? What does that got to do with anything?"
---------------------- We interrupt this February article.
Coronavirus expert says he has second thoughts about flying
---------------------- We now return you to the article.
Other advice from Fauci and Dr. Stephen Hahn, Food and Drug Administration commissioner, includes:
•Chinese products. Coronavirus is predominantly spread in the air from humans to humans. "Inanimate things" that are placed in a container in China and sent to the U.S. don't carry any risk of transmitting the virus, Fauci said. Neither do medications made in China.
Imported shipments of FDA-regulated products, including from China, are reviewed by the FDA and have to meet the same standards as domestic products, Hahn said in a statement late Friday.
"We want to reassure the public that at this time there is no evidence that food or food packaging have been associated with transmission and no reason to be concerned," Hahn said. "Further, there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods, including food and drugs for humans and pets, and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. associated with imported goods."
Dr. Stephen Hahn is the new commissioner of the Food and Drug Administation.
Dr. Stephen Hahn is the new commissioner of the Food and Drug Administation. (Photo: Jayne O'Donnell)
•Scam solutions. A real concern, though, could be the fake remedies for coronavirus that have surfaced from scam artists who capitalize on people's fears. Hahn said the FDA has set up a cross-agency task force to closely monitor for fraudulent products and false product claims about coronavirus.
The agency has asked major retailers to monitor their "online marketplaces" for such products, which are subject to FDA investigation and potential enforcement action. The task force has already worked with retailers to remove more than a dozen of these types of product listings online.
•Masks. The only people who need masks are those who are already infected to keep from exposing others. The masks sold at drugstores aren't even good enough to truly protect anyone, Fauci said.
"If you look at the masks that you buy in a drug store, the leakage around that doesn't really do much to protect you," he said. "People start saying, 'Should I start wearing a mask?' Now, in the United States, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to wear a mask."
Fauci also doesn't want people to worry, but many are.
Nancy Lamascus-Smith of Portland, Oregon, got an Amazon package delivered from China this month.
"I jokingly asked my sister if I should be concerned," Lamascus-Smith said. "Her reply was to wash my hands and stay away from her!"
Ashley Nicole Pate, who lives near Huntsville, Alabama, also became worried when she received an Amazon package from China. Her concerns increased when she became sick a week later, so she went to the doctor to get tested for the flu. The test was negative and she was sent home with antibiotics for bronchitis.
Fauci doesn't want people to worry about coronavirus, the danger of which is "just minuscule." But he does want them to take precautions against the "influenza outbreak, which is having its second wave."
"We have more kids dying of flu this year at this time than in the last decade or more," he said. "At the same time people are worrying about going to a Chinese restaurant. The threat is (we have) a pretty bad influenza season, particularly dangerous for our children."
Fauci offered advice for people who want to protect against the "real and present danger" of seasonal flu, which also would protect against the hypothetical danger of coronavirus.
"Wash your hands as frequently as you can. Stay away from crowded places where people are coughing and sneezing. If in fact you are coughing and sneezing, cover your mouth," he says.
"You know, all the things that we say each year."
Dr. Fauci: Worst-Case Scenario Of Up To 1.7M Deaths From Coronavirus 'Possible'
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institutes of Health’s infectious diseases chief, on Sunday said it’s “possible” the nation would experience a reported “worst-case scenario” of up to 1.7 million deaths from the coronavirus outbreak.
In an interview with ABC News’ “This Week,” Fauci said the figure, as reported by the New York Times, of as many as 200,000 to 1.7 million people could die from the fast-spreading virus is “unlikely” if the nation does what it’s doing now.
The staggering death rate is “possible,” he said of the figures reported by the Times.
“A model’s only as good as the assumptions you put in there,” he said.
“It is unlikely if we do the kinds of things we’re outlining right now,” he said, adding: “I don’t think it’ll be that worst-case [scenario]. What we’re doing will have an effect.”
Fauci praised President Donald Trump’s “ decision to block travel from China… [and] other travel restrictions,” saying they allow the nation to have “containment and mitigation… [that] will keep us from that worst-case scenario.”
The straight-talking Fauci warned “it’s going to be a matter of several weeks to a few months for sure,” before Americans can “get back to normal.”
“You just need to look at China and South Korea right now,” he said.
“If you look at that bracket, all of that was a couple months, month and a half.”
He declared that “the duration depends on the …. containment and mitigation.”
But he said he’s confident the government “right now” is doing everything that can be done to contain the burgeoning outbreak in America.
“The dynamics and history is you’re never where you think you are,” he said. “You got to be overreacting almost to keep up with it.”
He conceded, however, that a 13,000 supply of ventilators for the critically ill “may not be enough… if we really have a lot of cases.”
“Things will get worse before they get better,” he said. “What we’re trying to make sure is we don’t get to the worse-case scenario.”
He also said about decisions to go into a “shutdown mode” on the local level must keep one thing in mind: protecting the elderly and those with underlying medical complications.
“What we should be doing is making it much much different,” he said.
“Right now people are taking things on their own,” he noted, but that “what we gotta do as much as possible … chill, slow down… we got to make sure the vulnerable ones are the ones we should try to protect.”
“The ones who should really not do be doing that [going to movies, restaurants, crowded places] are the vulnerable ones,” he said.
In a separate interview on NBC News' "Meet The Press," Fauci added "The elderly and those who have underlying conditions right now should really hunker down.
"The golden rule that I say is that, when you think you are doing too much, you are probably doing enough or not enough," he added. "Alright, that is the thing you got to do. Don’t want to be complacent. You always want to be ahead of the curve."
Dr. Fauci Says Coronavirus Deaths in U.S. Could Top 100,000
WASHINGTON — The U.S. government’s foremost infection disease expert says the United States could experience more than 100,000 deaths and millions of infections from the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, offered his prognosis as the federal government weighs rolling back guidelines on social distancing in areas that have not been as hard-hit by the outbreak at the conclusion of the nationwide 15-day effort to slow the spread of the virus.
“I would say between 100,000 and 200,000 cases,” he said, correcting himself to say he meant deaths. “We’re going to have millions of cases.” But he added “I don’t want to be held to that” because the pandemic is “such a moving target.”
About 125,000 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. had been recorded as of Sunday morning, with over 2,100 dead. It is certain that many more have the disease but their cases have not been reported.
Dr. Deborah Birx, head of the White House coronavirus task force, said parts of the country with few cases so far must prepare for what’s to come. “No state, no metro area, will be spared,” she said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Most people who contract COVID-19 have mild or moderate symptoms, which can include fever and cough but also milder cases of pneumonia, sometimes requiring hospitalization. The risk of death is greater for older adults and people with other health problems. Hospitals in the most afflicted areas are straining to handle patients and some are short of critical supplies.
Dr. Anthony Fauci concerned about "blanket" Ebola quarantines
Imprinting? If your immune system recognizes something that initiates a response, but there is slight variation in that which it recognizes, logic says its similar enough, if a response is initiated. The response is activated for a reason, and that reason is to eliminate the threat. Whether exactly the same or similar. Therefore, like a bouncer, the offender is removed.
Good public health has limited outbreak in the US: Dr. Fauci
Why does the mainstream media promote testing of asymptomatics, when Fauci himself has previously stated asymptomatics are not shedding the "virus"? Why keep a lockdown on asymptomatics? Because a few old people might catch a cold?
Coronavirus: National emergency declaration will help suppress coronavirus curve: Fauci