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US health chief pledges more action if Ebola spreads

Published:Wednesday | May 23, 2018 | 12:00 AM
President Donald Trump speaks during an event about prescription drug prices with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington.


President Donald Trump's top health official said yesterday that the US and global partners will "take the steps necessary" to try to contain a new Ebola outbreak, asserting that the fight against infectious diseases is one of the administration's top priorities for the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN agency taking the lead.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar stopped short of predicting whether the outbreak in Congo that's believed to have killed at least 27 people will be contained, but he praised WHO's early response and vowed: "If it spreads, we will take further actions."

Azar's comments on Ebola came in a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press, which also touched on universal healthcare, US prescription-drug prices, and the recent revelations of a US$1.2-million payout by Swiss drugs giant Novartis last year to Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Novartis, one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies, said Cohen was hired to advise on how the Trump administration might approach healthcare policy. Experts have pointed out that Novartis needs FDA approval for the sale of its drugs and that company officials have spoken approvingly of rolling back the Obama-era Affordable Care Act, a Trump campaign promise largely unfulfilled.