Ebola can be contained, President Obama stressed, addressing the press at the U.S.-Africa Summit Wednesday.
“What we do know is that the Ebola virus, both currently and in the past, is controllable if you have a strong public health infrastructure in place,” Obama said when asked about experimental Ebola treatments, explaining it would be premature to address them as not all the science “is in.”
According to Obama, who had just wrapped up a conversation with African leaders about governing, the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa – which has already claimed more than 900 lives – occurred because the African countries were unable to deal with the health problem effectively.
“The countries that have been affected are the first to admit that what’s happened here is that their public health systems have been overwhelmed. They weren’t able to identify and then isolate cases quickly enough. You did not have a strong trust relationship between some of the communities that were affected and public health workers. As a consequence, it spread more rapidly than has been typical with the periodic Ebola outbreaks that have occurred previously,” Obama said.
The President went on to stress that the disease is something that should be taken seriously but that people should be aware that it can be controlled.
“Despite, obviously, the extraordinary pain and hardship of the families and persons who have been affected and despite the fact that we have to take this very seriously, it is important to remind ourselves this is not an airborne disease,” he said. “This is one that can be controlled and contained very effectively if we use the right protocols.”
As to what is being done and how to move forward, Obama described how the U.S. is working with the international community to take on the disease and prevent the disease from spreading.
“So what we’ve done is to make sure we’re surging not just U.S. resources, but we’ve reached out to European partners and partners from other countries working with the WHO. Let’s get all the health workers that we need on the ground. Let’s help to bolster the systems that they already have in place,” Obama explained.
“Let’s nip, as early as possible, any additional outbreaks of the disease, and then during the course of that process I think it’s entirely appropriate for us to see if there are additional drugs or medical treatments that can improve the survivability of what is a very deadly and obviously brutal disease,” he continued. “So we’re focusing on the public health approach right now because we know how to do that, but I will continue to seek information about what we’re learning with respect to these drugs going forward.”