CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky told a group of college students Wednesday the deadly virus Ebola can spread from a person who has the disease to someone standing three feet away and said the White House should be honest about that.
His comments directly conflict with statements from world health authorities who have dealt with Ebola outbreaks since 1976.
Paul, a doctor and potential GOP presidential contender, made his comments during a stop at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire Wednesday. In his remarks, he called Ebola "incredibly contagious" and suggested it could spread at a cocktail party attended by someone who is symptomatic, according to CNN video footage.
Paul has made similar comments in the wake of three Ebola diagnoses within the United States, suggesting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention makes the transmission of Ebola sound similar to that of AIDS.
Ebola, he says, is easier to contract.
"You're not going to get AIDS at a cocktail party. No one's going to cough on you and you're going to get AIDS. Everybody knows that. That's what they make it sound exactly like," Paul, a doctor and potential presidential contender, said Thursday at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. "But then you listen to them closely, they say you have to have direct contact. But you know how they define direct contact? Being within three feet of someone."
World health authorities have been clear that Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids, and that blood, vomit and feces carry the most virus. Health workers are at particular risk because in the course of caring for patients, they draw blood and clean up diarrhea when the patients are most infectious. Likewise in the epidemic zone in West Africa, people involved with burials of highly infectious bodies are at high risk.
"Should you be worried you might have gotten it by sitting next to someone?" Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said Wednesday. "The answer to that is no."
Still, Paul's team pointed to the CDC's website that says being within three feet of an infected patient for a prolonged period of time without the proper gear is a "low-risk exposure" for Ebola.
Politicians across the country have weighed in on President Barack Obama's response to the arrival of Ebola in the United States, with some calling for travel bans to West African countries that are being ravaged by the disease. The first U.S. patient diagnosed with Ebola, Thomas Eric Duncan, came to the United States from Liberia shortly before his diagnosis. The other two people diagnosed with Ebola in the United States cared for Duncan when he was in the hospital.
CDC site: http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/hcp/case-definition.html?mobile=nocontent