President Barack Obama made a statement from the White House on Monday after meeting with his advisors to discuss the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Obama said confronting the disease at its source and preventing an outbreak in the US are a “top national security priority.”
“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,” Obama said. “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.”
Though he emphasised the dangers posed by the disease, Obama stressed the possibility of an Ebola outbreak on American soil is “extremely low.”
“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,” Obama said. “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.”
On Sept. 30, the first imported case of Ebola in the US was identified when a man who had traveled from Liberia was diagnosed with the virus in Texas. Other Ebola patients have been brought to the US for treatment after being diagnosed in Africa.
Soon after the president spoke, the White House released a fact sheet detailing the US government’s response to Ebola. It identified “four key goals” of the American strategy to confront the virus:
- “Controlling the epidemic at its source in West Africa;
- Mitigating second-order impacts, including blunting the economic, social, and political tolls in the region;
- Engaging and coordinating with a broader global audience; and,
- Fortifying global health security infrastructure in the region and beyond, including within the United States.”
The White House fact sheet also described some elements of the $US350 million anti-Ebola effort launched by Obama last month including $US111 million in humanitarian aid, “130 civilian medical, healthcare, and disaster response experts from multiple U.S. government departments and agencies” and 350 military personnel who have been deployed to West Africa, and deliveries of equipment. Overall, the fact sheet indicated the US is “prepared to devote more than $US1 billion to the whole-of-government Ebola response effort.”
Domestically, the White House said the government is working to increase diagnostic capabilities at laboratories around the country and step up screenings at airports both here and abroad.
In his statement, Obama encouraged other countries to similarly step up their efforts to fight the epidemic.
“I’m going to be putting a lot of pressure on my fellow heads of state and government around the world to make sure that they are doing everything that they can to join us in this effort. We’ve got some small countries that are punching above their weight on this, but we’ve got some large countries that aren’t doing enough,” said Obama. “And we want to make sure that they understand that this is not a disease that’s going to discriminate, and this is something that all of us have to be involved in.”
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