Rand Paul: White House misled us into thinking Ebola is like AIDS

Dylan Stableford

Sen. Rand Paul criticized the Obama administration's handling of Ebola on Thursday, accusing the White House of misleading the public over the way the deadly disease is transmitted.

"I think from the very beginning they haven’t been completely forthright with us," the Kentucky Republican said in an interview with Bloomberg Politics from New Hampshire. "They’ve so wanted to downplay this, that they really I don’t think have been very accurate in their description of the disease."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ebola can only be spread if an infected person’s bodily fluids enter the mucous membranes or an open wound of another person.

But Paul said U.S. health officials have misled Americans into thinking Ebola is similar to AIDS in the way it is spread.

"They say, 'Don’t worry. It’s only mixture of bodily fluids through direct contact,'" Paul said. "So what are you thinking? I’m thinking like AIDS. You don’t get AIDS at a cocktail party. So my level of alarm goes down, and if I’m treating somebody or looking at them around them thinking, 'Oh no, it’s like AIDS, I’m not going to get it.' But it really isn’t like AIDS.

"And then they’ll say in a little lower voice, 'Oh, but direct contact can be three feet from somebody,'" he continued. "But if you ask any American on the street, 'Do you think direct contact is standing three feet from somebody?' ... Because they so much wanted to downplay that 'We were in charge, we know everything about this,' I think they made mistakes in not really being accurate about talking about the disease."

Paul's comments came as his GOP colleagues on Capitol Hill blasted the CDC's response to Ebola, a day after a second American nurse who treated an Ebola-stricken Liberian man at a Dallas hospital tested positive for the disease.

“Mistakes have been made,” Pennsylvania Rep. Tim Murphy said during a House oversight panel hearing Thursday afternoon. “Trust and credibility of the administration and government are waning. That trust must be restored.”

"People are scared," Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, chair of the committee, said. "People's lives are at stake, and the response so far has been unacceptable."

Upton and other House Republicans reiterated their calls for a travel ban on passengers from Ebola-ravaged West Africa, where the virus has infected at least 8,997 people and killed more than 4,400.

The White House and other health officials have said such a ban would only exacerbate the crisis.