How bad was CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden’s appearance on CNN this morning?

This bad:

Partial transcript:

Dr. Thomas Frieden, CDC director [standing right next to CNN’s Sanjay Gupta]: Well actually, Sanjay and I, if one of us had Ebola, the other would not be a contact right now. Because we’re not in contact. Just talking to someone is not a way to get infected. It’s not like the flu, not like the common cold. It requires direct physical contact.

CNN host Michaela Pereira: But if he sneezes on you, it’s a different story.

Sanjay Gupta: I think there’s a utility here because we’re having this conversation but I am within 3 feet of you. Wouldn’t I be considered a higher risk? My understanding reading your guidelines, sir, is that within 3 feet or direct contact — if I were to shake your hand, for example — would both qualify as being contact.

Frieden: We look at each situation individually and we assess it based on how sick the individual is and what the nature of the contact is. And certainly if you’re within 3 feet, that’s a situation we’d want to be concerned about. But in this case, where we haven’t hugged — we haven’t shaken hands — we have not had any contact that would allow either of our body fluids to be in contact with the other person.

Gupta: So, to Michaela’s point, the reason we talk about coughing and sneezing not being a concern — if you were to have coughed on me — you’re saying that would not be of concern?

Frieden: We would look at that situation very closely…

So Ebola is far less contagious than the flu or the cold and there is no reason to worry unless you are in “direct physical contact” with someone who has it. On the other hand, “if you’re within 3 feet” of someone who has it, “that’s a situation we’d want to be concerned about.”

As Gupta noted, CDC itself states that being within approximately 3 feet of an Ebola patient or shaking his or her hand entails “some risk.”

Feel better now?


Lethal experimental infections of rhesus monkeys by aerosolized Ebola virus.