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CDC Chief Warns Against 'False Hopes' on Ebola Drugs

Dr. Thomas Frieden told Congress that it is too early to tell whether experimental Ebola drugs are helpful.

A top U.S. health official told Congress on Thursday that the federal government is looking “very carefully” at experimental Ebola treatments, but he said that it is too early to tell whether they are helpful or even safe.

“I don’t want any false hopes out there,” said the official, Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Right now we don’t know if they work, and we can’t, as far as we know, have them in any significant numbers.”

Even if all goes well with testing, he said, scientists are “months or at least a year” away from significant quantities of a treatment or vaccine.

Two American aid workers who contracted Ebola in Africa improved after they took a drug never tried on humans, but Frieden said: “We will not know from their experiences whether these drugs work.” Other experimental Ebola treatments are in development.

Frieden told Congress that the best way to stop the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is old-fashioned public health — watching for symptoms, isolating suspected cases and tracking down anyone those people have been in contact with.

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— Erin McClam