The number of people infected with Ebola could rapidly grow from the thousands now counted and uncounted, to tens of thousands, and then to hundreds of thousands, President Obama said at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga today, as he announced a more intensive and strategic U.S. response to the outbreak in West Africa.
While reviewing measures underway to prepare for the unlikely event of an outbreak in the United States, and reiterating the contrast of this country’s readiness to control the virus with that of the already ailing health systems in the affected countries, Obama emphasized the threat of Ebola as its toll continues, to destabilize poor and already unstable countries and regions. Calling the continuing outbreak “a potential threat to global security,” Obama said, “that has profound effects on all of us.”
Obama announced a coordinated government-wide response to the outbreak that included:
- The establishment of a military command center in Liberia to coordinate and support U.S. and international responses to the outbreak across the region, including an “air bridge” to transport needed supplies;
- The establishment of a staging area in Senegal to speed transport of equipment and health responders;
- The establishment of a training site that could 500 health workers a week with help from the U.S. to recruit the workers;
- The deployment of 65 members of the U.S. Public Health Service to care for health workers who become ill with Ebola;
- The deployment of engineers to build new treatment units in affected areas;
- Distribution of equipment and information kits by United States Agency for International Development.
The efforts, he said, are intended to control the epidemic, address social and economic impacts of the epidemic, coordinate global responses, and strengthen health systems to be better prepared for future threats. Some of the groundwork for the efforts had already been laid, Obama said, in the development of the recently initiated Global Health Security Agenda, an effort announced early this year to strengthen responses to disease and public health threats in resource poor countries.
“This outbreak adds impetus,” to that effort, Obama said.
“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Obama said, describing scenes of people “waiting to die, right now.”
“Right now the world still has the opportunity to save countless lives.”