President Obama in his weekly address reminded members of the public that the Ebola disease is a public health challenge in which everyone has a responsibility and a role to play.
He noted that the disease is one that is serious, but that one cannot afford to give into hysteria or fear because that only makes it harder to get people the accurate information they need. He said that people ought to be guided by the science and must remember the basic facts.
The President said, “What we’re seeing now is not an “outbreak” or an “epidemic” of Ebola in America. We’re a nation of more than 300 million people. To date, we’ve seen three cases of Ebola diagnosed here-the man who contracted the disease in Liberia came here and sadly died; the two courageous nurses who were infected while they were treating him. Our thoughts and our prayers are with them, and we’re doing everything we can to give them the best care possible. Now, even one infection is too many. At the same time, we have to keep this in perspective. As our public health experts point out, every year thousands of Americans die from the flu.”
In continuing to allay the fears of members of the public, the President further said, “Ebola is actually a difficult disease to catch. It’s not transmitted through the air like the flu. You cannot get it from just riding on a plane or a bus. The only way that a person can contract the disease is by coming into direct contact with the bodily fluids of somebody who is already showing symptoms. I’ve met and hugged some of the doctors and nurses who’ve treated Ebola patients. I’ve met with an Ebola patient who recovered, right in the Oval Office. And I’m fine.”
“We know how to fight this disease. We know the protocols. And we know that when they’re followed, they work. So far, five Americans who got infected with Ebola in West Africa have been brought back to the United States-and all five have been treated safely, without infecting healthcare workers,” he further noted.
In addition, the President explained that his administration is stepping up its efforts to prevent any further outbreak of the disease in the U.S. by having additional CDC personnel on the ground, working quickly to track and monitor anyone who may have been in close contact with someone showing symptoms, sharing lessons learned so other hospitals don’t repeat the mistakes that happened in Dallas, and adding new screening measures at airports that receive nearly all passengers arriving from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
“We can’t just cut ourselves off from West Africa, where this disease is raging. Our medical experts tell us that the best way to stop this disease is to stop it at its source-before it spreads even wider and becomes even more difficult to contain. Trying to seal off an entire region of the world-if that were even possible-could actually make the situation worse. It would make it harder to move health workers and supplies back and forth. Experience shows that it could also cause people in the affected region to change their travel, to evade screening, and make the disease even harder to track,” he added.
The President concluded by noting that the United States will continue to help lead the global response in West Africa. He also said, “If we want to protect Americans from Ebola here at home, we have to end it over there. And as our civilian and military personnel serve in the region, their safety and health will remain a top priority.”