President Barack Obama insisted Wednesday that the US response to the Ebola outbreak is effective and that the chances of the deadly virus taking hold in the United States are “extremely low.”
Concerns about health protocols have grown since two nurses that looked after Thomas Eric Duncan, who died of the disease, contracted the virus. Duncan was infected with Ebola in Liberia, where he is from, and then took a flight to the US.
Obama told reporters after a hastily convened meeting with 20 senior White House officials, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Vice-President Joe Biden and Attorney-General Eric Holder, that he himself had close contact with health workers treating Ebola patients while visiting Emory University Hospital in Atlanta and felt safe doing so.
“I shook hands with, hugged and kissed not the doctors, but a couple of the nurses at Emory, because of the valiant work they did in treating one of the patients. They followed the protocols, they knew what they were doing, and I felt perfectly safe doing so,” said the president.
Obama said it wasn’t like the flu virus, which can be transmitted in the air through coughs and sneezes.
He said he was “absolutely confident” that there will not be a serious outbreak of Ebola in the US, but stressed that it will become increasingly difficult to control the epidemic if it is not dealt with at its source in West Africa.
The president held video conferences with the French, British, German and Italian leaders on Wednesday to discuss the international response to the outbreak.