Obama urges Americans not to give in to Ebola hysteria
With three cases of Ebola diagnosed in the United States and more than 100 people being monitored in case they are infected, President Barack Obama said Saturday that Americans “can’t give in to hysteria or fear” about the spread of the virus.
As though to illustrate his point, a Dallas bus and train station was closed on Saturday afternoon over concern about a woman who fell ill. The woman was first reported to be on the checklist for possible Ebola exposure but turned out not to be.
While Obama administration and world health officials were still focused on tackling Ebola at its source in three West African countries, Texas state authorities said 14 people had been cleared from an Ebola watch list. On Sunday and Monday, more were expected to end 21 days of monitoring for fever and other symptoms if they are asymptomatic.
They could include Louise Troh in Dallas, fiancee of the now deceased Liberian man who was the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States in late September while visiting her. Troh, her 13-year-old son, and two relatives of Duncan have been in mandatory quarantine at an undisclosed location in Dallas.
In all, 145 people with “contacts and possible contacts” with the virus were being monitored, the Texas Department of State Health Services said in a statement.
In his weekly radio address, Obama made plain he is not planning to give in to demands from some lawmakers for a ban on travelers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the worst-hit countries where more than 4,500 people have died since March in the worst Ebola outbreak on record.
“We can’t just cut ourselves off from West Africa,” Obama said. “Trying to seal off an entire region of the world, if that were even possible, could actually make the situation worse,” he said.
Obama has been criticized over his administration’s handling of Ebola. He held a flurry of meetings in the past week and on Friday appointed Ron Klain, a lawyer with long Washington experience, to oversee the effort to contain the disease.
Republicans questioned why he did not pick a medical expert.
“I hope he (Klain) is successful in this. I think it’s a step in the right direction, but I just question picking someone without any background in public health,” Republican Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told CNN on Saturday.
The Obama administration is not alone in facing criticism. The World Health Organization has been faulted for failing to do enough to halt the spread of the virus.
The agency promised it would publish a full review of its handling of the crisis once the outbreak was under control, in response to a leaked document that appeared to acknowledge that it had failed to do enough.
There is no cure or approved vaccine yet for Ebola but pharmaceutical companies have been working on experimental drugs. The virus is transmitted through an infected person’s bodily fluids and is not airborne.