US President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that West Africa is “nowhere near out of the woods” in its fight against Ebola despite some improvement in the three countries hardest hit by the virus.
Obama said the disease remains a threat to the world, including the US, and he urged Congress to quickly approve his request for billions of dollars in emergency spending to combat the spread of Ebola at home and abroad.
Meeting at the White House with his Ebola response team, Obama also offered condolences to the family of Dr Martin Salia.
The surgeon contracted Ebola in his native Sierra Leone but died yesterday at a hospital in the state of Nebraska after being rushed there over the weekend for specialized treatment.
Sierra Leone is one of the three affected countries along with Liberia and Guinea.
Obama said it’s important to “continue to push forward until we stamp out this disease entirely in that region. Until we do, there are threats of additional outbreaks and, given the nature of international travel, it means that everybody has some measure of risk.”
“We are nowhere near out of the woods yet in West Africa,” Obama said.
He reviewed improvements to the US public health system that were made as a result of Ebola and noted that the eight Ebola-infected people who received prompt medical treatment at American medical facilities are “Ebola free and back with their families.”
But he bemoaned a decline in US media coverage of the crisis and suggested that it was leading to a sense of complacency.
“Although we should feel optimistic about our capacity to solve the Ebola crisis, we cannot be complacent simply because the news attention on it has waned,” Obama said. “We have to stay with it.”
He urged Congress to approve his request for USD 6.2 billion in emergency spending to confront the Ebola outbreak at its source in West Africa and to protect the US against any possible spread before lawmakers conclude their legislative business for the year.
Obama said the money would be used bolster the domestic public health system, support ongoing efforts in West Africa, speed testing and approval of Ebola vaccines and treatments, and help other vulnerable countries better respond to communicable disease.