Obama pledges rapid Ebola response

Published: Thursday 16th October 2014 by The News Editor

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President Barack Obama vowed his administration would respond in a “much more aggressive way” to cases of Ebola in the United States.

And he warned that in an age of frequent travel the disease could spread globally if the world does not respond to the “raging epidemic in West Africa”.

In his most urgent comments on the spread of the disease, Mr Obama also sought to ease growing anxiety and fears in the US in the aftermath of a second nurse being diagnosed with Ebola after treating a patient in a Dallas hospital.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cleared the nurse, Amber Joy Vinson, to fly from Cleveland, Ohio, to Dallas.

CDC spokesman David Daigle said she spoke with the CDC official responsible for monitoring her health before she boarded the flight on Monday.

Mr Daigle says Ms Vinson, 29, reported her temperature was below 100.4 degrees and she had no symptoms. Ebola sufferers are not contagious until they show symptoms.

The official said she could board Frontier Airlines Flight 1143.

Ms Vinson is the second Dallas nurse to become infected after treating a Liberian man who died of Ebola last week.

The president said he had directed the CDC to step up its response to new cases.

“We want a rapid response team, a SWAT team essentially, from the CDC to be on the ground as quickly as possible, hopefully within 24 hours, so that they are taking the local hospital step by step though what needs to be done,” he said.

Underscoring Mr Obama’s stepped-up attention to the disease, he cancelled his planned trip today to Rhode Island and New York to remain at the White House to monitor the government’s Ebola response.

It marked the second day in a row that Ebola altered the president’s plans.

He cancelled a political campaign trip yesterday to convene a session of senior Cabinet officials involved in the Ebola response both in the US and in the West African region where the disease has been spreading at alarming rates.

Even as he raised the potential for global contagion, Mr Obama stressed that the danger in the US remained a long shot.

“Here’s what we know about Ebola. It’s not like the flu. It’s not airborne,” he said.

He made the point of noting that when he visited health care workers who had attended to Ebola patients at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, he hugged and kissed them without fear of infection.

“They followed the protocols, they knew what they were doing,” he said. “I felt perfectly safe doing so.”

The disclosure that a second nurse at a Dallas had tested positive for the virus after treating an Ebola patient who later died raised new fears regarding the exposure by other health care workers.

House Speaker John Boehner said Mr Obama should consider a temporary ban on travel to the US from the West African countries afflicted by the virus, and that the president should weigh other measures “as doubts about the security of our air travel systems grow”.

Administration officials have resisted a travel ban, saying that adequate screening measures are already in place – only once has an Ebola victim flown into the US – and that a ban could hinder assistance to the afflicted.

The Texas developments added a new domestic element to what has developed into an Ebola crisis in the West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Mr Obama has been pressing the international community to step up its assistance in combating the disease.

Yesterday he spoke by phone with British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

Mr Obama stressed that the world must provide the finances and personnel needed “to bend the curve of the epidemic” and said it amounts to a “human tragedy as well as a threat to international security”.

Medical records showed that Ms Vinson treated Thomas Duncan, who was diagnosed with Ebola After flying to the US from Liberia, and died on October 8.

She was tr ansferred today to a special bio-containment unit at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, where other Ebola patients have been treated successfully.

The first Dallas nurse to be diagnosed was Nina Pham, who is being monitored to determine the best place for her care.

The new case lends support to nurses’ claims this week that they have inadequate training and in some cases, protective gear, to take care of Ebola patients.

Published: Thursday 16th October 2014 by The News Editor

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