President Barack Obama addressed the growing Ebola crisis today in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.
"As I’ve said from the start of this outbreak, I consider this a top national security priority. This is not just a matter of charity -- although obviously the humanitarian toll in countries that are affected in West Africa is extraordinarily significant. This is an issue about our safety. It is also an issue with respect to the political stability and the economic stability in this region," said the commander in chief.
Obama went on to say that "the chances of an Ebola outbreak in the United States is extremely low."
And so it is very important for us to make sure that we are treating this the same way that we would treat any other significant national security threat. And that’s why we’ve got an all-hands-on-deck approach -- from DOD to public health to our development assistance, our science teams -- everybody is putting in time and effort to make sure that we are addressing this as aggressively as possible.
I know that the American people are concerned about the possibility of an Ebola outbreak, and Ebola is a very serious disease. And the ability of people who are infected who could carry that across borders is something that we have to take extremely seriously. At the same time, it is important for Americans to know the facts, and that is that because of the measures that we’ve put in place, as well as our world-class health system and the nature of the Ebola virus itself -- which is difficult to transmit -- the chances of an Ebola outbreak in the United States is extremely low.
The president said "procedures" are set up to deal with Ebola:
Procedures are now in place to rapidly evaluate anybody who might be showing symptoms. We saw that with the response of the airplane in Newark and how several hospitals across the United States have been testing for possible cases. In recent months we’ve had thousands of travelers arriving here from West Africa, and so far only one case of Ebola has been diagnosed in the United States, and that’s the patient in Dallas. Our prayers are obviously with him and his family.
We have learned some lessons, though, in terms of what happened in Dallas. We don’t have a lot of margin for error. The procedures and protocols that are put in place must be followed. One of the things that we discussed today was how we could make sure that we’re spreading the word across hospitals, clinics, any place where a patient might first come in contact with a medical worker to make sure that they know what to look out for, and they’re putting in place the protocols and following those protocols strictly. And so we’re going to be reaching out not only to governors and mayors and public health officials in states all across the country, but we want to continue to figure out how we can get the word out everywhere so that everybody understands exactly what is needed to be done
Meanwhile, at the federal level, we’re constantly reviewing and evaluating the measures that we already have in place to see if there are additional improvements. We continue to look at any additional steps that can be taken to make sure that the American people are safe, which is our highest priority.
And finally, we had a discussion about what we’re doing on site in West Africa. There’s been already extraordinary work done by the Department of Defense in conjunction with the CDC in standing up isolation units and hospital beds. We are making progress. The environment is difficult because the public health system there has very few resources and is already extraordinarily fragile.
And I’ll be very honest with you -- although we have seen great interest on the part of the international community, we have not seen other countries step up as aggressively as they need to. And I said at the United Nations, and I will repeat, that this is an area where everybody has to chip in and everybody has to move quickly in order for us to get this under control. Countries that think that they can sit on the sidelines and just let the United States do it, that will result in a less effective response, a less speedy response, and that means that people die, and it also means that the potential spread of the disease beyond these areas in West Africa becomes more imminent.