Washington, Sep 7.- Congressman Eliot Engel criticized the delay in involving the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the investigation of symptoms reported by U.S. diplomats in Cuba, a statement said today.
The statement issued Friday reflects the intervention of the Democratic legislator for New York at a hearing held Thursday at the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs of the House of Representatives.
In that space, the congressman recalled that last December he and the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Lower House, Republican Ed Royce, sent a letter to the CDC urging them to assume a leadership role in the investigation.
According to the legislator, he is pleased that the CDC is finally involved, 'but I am worried, and frankly bewildered, that they have arrived so late.
In that sense, he maintained that on August 16 his staff met with investigators from those entities working on the analysis of health incidents in Havana, and they were on the fourth day of their work. They listened well: a year and a half after the first incidents occurred; the CDC is only now beginning.
That's why Engel asked Peter Bodde, coordinator of the State Department's Health Incident Response Task Force, and Charles Rosenfarb, medical director of the federal agency's Office of Medical Services, the reason for the delay during the hearing.
Specifically, the Democratic representative referred to the fact that this year a case was reported of a U.S. official in China with symptoms similar to those reported in Havana, and asked why in the case of the Asian nation, the CDC's presence did begin immediately.
Rosenfarb gave as an argument that it took them time to understand 'the extent of the symptoms, findings and injuries' that would have begun to appear in late 2016, and added that they focused on providing medical care to those affected, so that only in the fall of 2017 began to talk with the CDC.
In his questions to officials, Engel also questioned the credentials of Michael Hoffer, the first physician to examine diplomats, whom Time magazine published in 2011 who subjected troops deployed in Iraq to treatment with an unapproved drug in which the doctor had a financial stake.
As reported then by CBS New, researchers found that standard military concussion evaluations were not used on the soldiers, possibly resulting in poor care.
Doesn't it seem a little strange that our diplomats suffering from 'concussion' symptoms are sent to a doctor who apparently didn't use standard concussion screenings? Engel inquired.
At the time, we felt he was the best qualified person according to the recommendations we received for the initial exam, Rosenfarb replied.