Rand Paul to CNN: 'I don't want to create panic' over Ebola

Rand Paul: Govt. is underplaying Ebola
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Story highlights

  • Rand Paul says he thinks Ebola can be found in cough particles.
  • The Kentucky senator and ophthalmologist says he doesn't want to "create panic".
  • He wants to suspend flights from certain West African countries.
Sen. Rand Paul said Friday he doesn't want to "create panic" over Ebola, but stood by his belief that the virus is more contagious that the government is letting on.
"I understand people in government not wanting to create panic, and I don't want to create panic, either. But I think it's also a mistake on the other side of the coin to underplay the risk of this," the Kentucky Republican told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in an interview to air in full on "The Situation Room" at 5 p.m. ET.
Last week Paul, an ophthalmologist with a medical degree from Duke, expressed strong skepticism of the Obama administration's handling of Ebola. He called for the government to consider suspending flights to and from Ebola hot zones in Africa.
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While flight changes have not been implemented, the government is starting to enforce closer screenings of West Africans at five of America's busiest airports.
Doubling down on his stance, Paul said he thinks temporary flight suspensions would be practical.
"I mean, if you want to visit your son or daughter and you're coming from Liberia, couldn't you wait a couple of months? I don't think that that is something so -- of such an immediate necessity that the chance for a worldwide contagion, I think it's not unreasonable," he said.
President Obama has said the likelihood of an Ebola epidemic in the United States is small, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has maintained that the virus can only be transmitted through bodily fluids.
"The administration has been saying over and over again, 'Oh, this is only transmitted through direct bodily fluids.' They make you think that this is like AIDS and not very contagious. And then in the next statement, they very quietly say, 'Oh, but if you're within three feet of someone, we call that direct contact.' Well I don't think Americans think standing within three feet of someone is direct contact," he said.
The CDC defines close contact as being within three feet of a patient for a prolonged period of time, or having direct brief contact, such as shaking hands and hugging. Walking by a person or moving through a hospital does not comprise contact, the CDC says.
However, on CNN, CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said that if a person had been coughed on or sneezed on by an Ebola patient, medical professionals would want to "look at that situation very closely."
"They also say it can't be aerosolized," Paul said Friday. "But the question people should be asking is, 'Can it be transmitted by someone coughing on you?' I think the virus can be suspended in cough particles. They call that direct contact. But I think most Americans would think that's being aerosolized."