You may actually recognize him. When the Ebola outbreak dominated headlines last year, Dr. Anthony Fauci was front and center and tasked with preventing a full-blown epidemic in the U.S.
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“I was on all the Sunday morning shows for weeks during that time trying to put a realistic approach to what was happening so the public could understand it better. There was a lot of unnecessary panic," says Fauci, who serves as the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
Fauci was appointed as one of the major spokesmen for the Ebola scare by the Obama administration and oversaw the care of the Dallas nurse who was the first American to be infected with the disease.
“It would be unheard of if we had a major outbreak. Our health care system would never allow something like that to happen,” says Fauci, who says the U.S. handled the outbreak fine.
“We didn’t have a problem handling it. The track record of what we did in the U.S. was quite good. We put a lot of resources in West Africa early on. The problem was the perception the public had," says Fauci.
While the West Africa Ebola epidemic is believed to be winding-down, the disease has claimed over 11,000 lives globally according to the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control.
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The World Health Organization (WHO) has already acknowledged shortcomings and mistakes that were made in the early stages of the outbreak. The agency recently announced plans to set up a $100 million contingency fund to ensure they will not be "overwhelmed" by a major crisis again.
As head of the NIAID, Dr. Fauci wields a $4.4 billion research budget and his team is currently testing out an Ebola vaccine in West Africa. The vaccine was first tested on monkeys and has been very successful so far.
“We found that if you give a monkey the vaccine and then expose them to the virus, it protects them from it,” he says. His team has been working on the vaccine for over 10 years.
While Fauci says he’s not worried about Ebola, something that would keep him up at night is a potential respiratory disease.
“An influenza like the one in 1918 that killed 50 to 100 million people in the world that’s what would keep me up. Diseases like that spread rapidly and you have to respond very quickly,” says Fauci.
But people shouldn’t waste time and energy worrying about future diseases or outbreaks, says Fauci. Instead, they should be focusing on the simple things they can do to keep healthy.
“Never ever smoke. It’s one the worst things you can do. It’s like a slam dunk towards killing yourself. The evidence is overwhelming. Eat healthy and exercise,” he says.