Durbin Meets With CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden

Discusses first confirmed case of MERS in U.S., American Cures Act, and E-Cigarettes

[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) met with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Thomas Frieden for an update on the first confirmed case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the United States, being treated in Indiana. Durbin discussed how his bill, the American Cures Act, which would provide robust funding for the agency’s work in biomedical research, which includes the development of vaccines to fight viruses like MERS. Durbin also talked about the public health effects of e-cigarettes, and the report the CDC released on the increase of calls to poison control centers because of e-liquids. A photo from today’s meeting can be found here.

“Over the weekend, the CDC demonstrated how imperative it is that our federal agencies are prepared to respond to public health crises when they occur,” Durbin said. “My meeting today with Director Frieden was very productive. We agree that funding ground-breaking biomedical research, and any effort that protects public health, should be a national priority.”

Last week the CDC confirmed that an individual traveling from Saudi Arabia to Chicago via London fell ill on his way to see family in Indiana. It is suspected that he contracted MERS in Saudi Arabia. According to the CDC, the gentleman spent no appreciable time in Illinois. After leaving O'Hare he immediately got on a bus to Indiana.  After spending a week in Munster Community Hospital, his condition has improved and he may be discharged soon.


Introduced in February, the American Cures Act creates a trust fund to provide a mandatory funding increase to the four largest federal agencies involved in biomedical research: National Institutes of Health (NIH); Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Department of Defense Health Program (DHP); and Veterans Medical & Prosthetics Research Program. The bill would increase funding for these research agencies at a rate of GDP inflation + 5%.  The new funding would start at $1.8 billion the first year and increase gradually each year for 10 years.  In all, the bill would dedicate $150 billion over the next decade for biomedical research.


Durbin also discussed last month’s CDC report on the number of, and nature of calls to poison control centers involving e-liquids contained in e-cigarettes. According to the report, the number of calls to poison centers involving e-cigarette liquids rose from one per month in September 2010, to 215 per month in February 2014. The report also mentioned that more than half of the calls to poison centers due to e-cigarettes involved young children under age 5, and about 42 percent of the poison calls involved people age 20 and older. Last month, Durbin released a report with 11 other lawmakers about the marketing of e-cigarettes to children.