President Barack Obama insisted that the chances of a serious outbreak of Ebola on US soil remained “very, very low”, but warned the epidemic will "spread globally" if allowed the rage without control in West Africa
Speaking just hours after officials revealed that a second nurse in Texas had been diagnosed with the deadly disease, Mr Obama said that the “likelihood of widespread Ebola outbreaks in this country are very, very low… but we are taking this very seriously at the highest level of government”.
The authorities spent the day scrambling to find 132 passengers who were on a two-and-a-half hour flight with newly diagnosed nurse as she started to show symptoms. 29-year-old Amber Joy Vinson is the second person who looked after a Liberian patient, who died of Ebola last week at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, to catch the disease, raising questions about the US health system’s ability to cope.
After calling an emergency meeting of cabinet members and other top officials, Mr Obama said he had told the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta to deploy an “emergency response - a SWAT team” any time a new case arises in the US to ensure proper isolation of the patient and proper protection for care-givers.
On a day when he had cancelled political trips to New Jersey and Connecticut to remain in Washington to monitor developments, Mr Obama also stressed the need to tackle the disease in West Africa. “I am absolutely confident we can prevent a serious outbreak of the disease here in the US but it becomes more difficult if this epidemic rages out of control in West Africa,” he said. “If it does it will spread globally.” Insisting that Ebola is not like the flu and is only communicated by direct contact with the bodily fluids of someone already infected, Mr Obama pointed out that during a visit to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta last month where a doctor returned from West Africa was being treated for Ebola he had shaken hands, hugged and kissed nurses treating him and he, the president, had felt perfectly safe.
See the Ebola outbreak mapped
See the Ebola outbreak mapped
1/7 25 March 2014
This outbreak of the Ebola virus first emerged in the Guéckédou region of Guinea, at a crossroads with both Liberia and Sierra Leone
2/7 31 March
On 31 March the WHO confirmed the outbreak was now international, spreading first into Liberia's northern-most Lofa region
3/7 27 May
The virus spread to Sierra Leone at the end of May - just as agencies were hoping the worst was over
4/7 27 July
In Sierra Leone the virus boomed, and then it spread to Nigeria when the Liberian diplomat Patrick Sawyer flew from Monrovia to Lagos
5/7 9 August
The Nigeria cases sparked fears around the world, and there have now been deaths in Spain and Saudi Arabia involving people who had travelled to West Africa. The numbers of cases continue to rise
6/7 17-20 September
In mid-September, Senegal confirmed its first case linked to the Ebola outbreak, a development the WHO described as a top priority emergency. Numbers of cases continued to grow exponentially in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, as experts warned they could number one million by January if not contained
7/7 8 October
Two cases of Ebola have now been reported in the US and Europe - the first times the virus has been contracted among health workers outside Africa