GOP lawmaker: "Eliminate the threat" of Ebola in West Africa

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said Sunday that U.S. officials should do more to eliminate the threat of Ebola, including considering temporarily suspending visas for West Africans to come to the United States.

In an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday, McCaul said it is "important we eliminate the threat at the source, and the source really is in Africa where it's spreading like wildfire."

"I think we need to target more the individuals themselves, and look at the idea of potentially temporarily suspending the 13,000 visas that would be coming out of this region...when it comes to the original population out of West Africa leaving, I think until this gets under control that's a measure policymakers ought to be looking at."

McCaul suggested that would be a better option than a ban on flights to and from West Africa - which health officials oppose - and said it was important to allow health care workers to go in and out of the region.

His committee held a field hearing on the virus in Dallas, Texas, where a caregiver tested positive for Ebola after treating the first patient diagnosed in the U.S. who ultimately died.

McCaul said he believed the hearing showed that officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Homeland Security Department and state and local governments "need to start following better protocols."

He echoed CDC director Thomas Frieden, who said in an earlier interview on "Face the Nation" that there was "clearly" a breach of protocol that occurred when workers treated Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola patient, which allowed the virus to spread.

CBS News Chief Medical Correspondent Jonathan LaPook said that the CDC is considering using four medical centers around the country that specialize in high-risk infections to treat Ebola patients. Those sites are Emory University Hospital, the National Institutes of Health, University of Nebraska Medical Center and Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Montana.

"Any hospital across the U.S. must be prepared; however as we continue our outreach efforts it may be a prudent measure to suggest certain hospitals which have specifically trained personnel and which have exercised their Ebola response plans thoroughly be prepared to receive first," Dr. LaPook said, quoting CDC officials.

Asked about moving Ebola treatment to those four hospitals, McCaul said, "I think that may be wise because they have the expertise to deal with this very horrific virus."

But LaPook also said that it is important for the public "not to have magical thinking" about the virus.

"There's 40 years of experience treating Ebola. We know how it's transmitted; there's no evidence from a huge New England Journal review a couple of weeks ago that this virus is any different than any of the previous viruses, that its mutating or anything like that," he said. "We know that to protect the community, it's a public health measure and so the individual patient sadly died in this case but what protects the community is the public health system."

Despite some initial missteps in the handling of the Duncan's case, LaPook said the health care system "did a good job of responding to this" and that it took the CDC just 48 hours to track down all of the newest patient's contacts.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.