The first outbreak of Ebola in the world was a fraud, according to an international scientific advisory committee.
In a letter to the World Health Organization (WHO), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) wrote that a series of documents leaked to Reuters by a former CDC official and published in a German newspaper last week indicated that the agency had deliberately downplayed the virus’ true size, and that the spread of the disease was caused by people who were not exposed to the virus in the first place.
The committee, which included scientists, medical professionals and government officials, also concluded that the initial outbreak of the virus was exaggerated and had been “premeditated”.
A senior official at the CDC, Dr Tom Frieden, called the report a “serious blow” to the agency’s reputation.
“We’re disappointed by the report,” Dr Frieden said in a statement.
“I think it demonstrates how far the CDC has fallen.”
But the AAAS, which has been involved in the outbreak response for more than a decade, said the findings did not “reflect the views of AAAS or the scientific community”.
The letter, which was shared with Reuters, said that in its analysis of the leaked documents, the CDC had “completely mischaracterised the virus” and had also ignored evidence that the virus did not spread in the same way as the US, which had experienced a dramatic spike in cases of the infection.
“The documents that were released today clearly show that the CDC deliberately understated the scope of the outbreak in the hopes of minimizing public concern and the potential negative impact of its false claims,” the AAAC wrote in a letter addressed to WHO Secretary-General António Guterres.
“This misrepresentation has seriously harmed the credibility of the agency and has made the agency less likely to take action.”
The documents published by Der Spiegel on Thursday were among those leaked by an unnamed former CDC worker, who said the agency “deliberately mischaracterized” the outbreak as a hoax and had “fabricated a series [of] documents to create an impression of a massive epidemic”.”CDC did not intentionally mislead the public,” Dr Michael Reiss, a virologist and chair of the AAASS board of directors, wrote in the letter.
“It was irresponsible and irresponsible for CDC to engage in a series to mislead the general public about a viral pandemic.
It is deeply disturbing that the report was released in the midst of an epidemic in the United States that was already well under way.”
The report said that CDC officials had told the public that the epidemic was spread through a small number of cases among people who had recently visited a doctor’s office, and had not told the full story.
It said that the outbreak was spread by people infected by the Ebola virus while they were at work, or while travelling to and from the country, and also by people whose symptoms persisted for a while after returning home.”CDC officials failed to accurately and transparently state that the number of contacts [of the virus] was negligible,” the report said.
The AAAS said that despite its findings, CDC officials still did not know how many people were exposed to EV-D68 and that their decision to “deliver” the vaccine to US health workers in March 2015 was “extremely irresponsible”.
“While the decision to distribute the vaccine was widely criticised by the public, CDC leadership has consistently argued that the vaccine’s safety profile was sufficiently high that it would be appropriate for health workers to receive it in the USA,” the letter said.
“Based on this analysis, we believe that the decision not to distribute EV-DS68 to health workers was highly irresponsible, and in light of the evidence that CDC has already presented to the public regarding the effectiveness of the vaccine, we are disappointed that the organization has not yet been held accountable.”
The letter to Guterges letter follows a letter from more than 80 medical and scientific experts, who also criticised the CDC’s response to the Ebola outbreak, including a decision to stop vaccinating healthcare workers in West African countries after some patients started showing symptoms, including fever, headache and vomiting.
The letter said that it was “particularly concerning” that “CDC has continued to provide limited support to health care workers in countries where the virus is prevalent”, and that “the agency continues to refuse to provide additional vaccines to health providers”.
In a statement to Reuters, CDC said that Dr Reiss’ letter “does not reflect our values, and we disagree with the conclusions drawn from it”.
The agency also called Dr Reis’ comments “irresponsible and irresponsible”.
Dr Frieden has said the virus has not spread to the US and that it could have “a limited impact on the global health system”.
But he has defended the CDC in the face of the criticisms, saying that the health system has “never been more prepared” and that a vaccine was “not needed”.
“We have been able to provide an effective vaccine, and our healthcare workers have been