Obama's White House Meeting On Ebola Quells Fears Of A Potential Outbreak
Now that a second health care worker has been diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, concern over a possible outbreak is escalating. Late on Wednesday, President Barack Obama held a cabinet meeting on Ebola, calling for a more "aggressive way" to monitor the potential spread of the deadly virus inside U.S. borders. However, the president tried to mitigate the fears of federal officials and the general public alike, insisting that America is prepared to combat Ebola despite the recent cases.
During the two-hour-long cabinet meeting, Obama connected via video-conferencing with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Thomas Frieden. The president ordered a review of the Ebola outbreak at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, where two nurses who treated patient Thomas Eric Duncan contracted the disease. He said federal officials will review "every step" of the health care workers' process in treating Duncan to determine "how we are going to make sure that something like this isn’t repeated."
Obama also ordered the CDC to send a "rapid response team" to a hospital within 24 hours of an Ebola diagnosis. The president compared these teams to a medical "SWAT team," with members who would be equipped and well-prepared to handle the virus. These teams would be taking local hospital staff "step-by-step through exactly what needs to be done," Obama said.
Before delving into protocol, the president opened the meeting expressing concern for Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, the two Dallas health care workers who contracted Ebola while caring for Duncan. Obama praised the two nurses, as well as health care workers across the country, saying:
Our nurses and our health care workers are absolutely vital to the health and well-being of our families. They sacrifice for us all the time — not just in this case, but in the case of other illness. They are selfless. They work hard. They are often underpaid. ... We have to make sure that we are doing everything we can to take care of them.
After Texas Health Presbyterian and the CDC confirmed on Sunday that a health care worker had Ebola, Frieden made headlines when he alleged that a "breach in protocol" caused the transmission of the highly fatal virus. Frieden later apologized for his comments, saying he didn't mean to place blame on the hospital's health care workers or the hospital itself.
However, the fact that the virus has spread to now two nurses, combined with shocking allegations from a nurses' union and the revelation that Duncan was sent home from the hospital on his first visit, has many questioning the preparedness of Texas Health Presbyterian and other local hospitals. That's why Obama is ordering the CDC to be on the ground whenever an Ebola case arises.
According to the president, it's not that the U.S. needs a new Ebola protocol — it just needs to properly educate health care workers with the one we have. "These protocols work. We know that because they've been used for decades now in Ebola cases around the world," Obama said.
As for the risk of a widespread Ebola outbreak in the U.S., the president assured the public that it's "very low." The president even used himself as a reassuring example, showing how Ebola, unlike airborne viruses such as the flu, is very difficult to transmit. Obama said he hugged and kissed several nurses who treated Ebola patients at Emory Hospital in Atlanta, and, of course, didn't contract the illness.
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