WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama expressed confidence Wednesday about the ability to contain Ebola in the U.S., taking special note of the ongoing recovery of two nurses who contracted the disease and of others who were declared Ebola free after being exposed to the deadly virus.
"We're cautiously optimistic," he declared.
He also gave assurances that hospitals across the country were becoming better prepared to deal with Ebola.
Obama spoke after meeting with his Ebola response team, including point man Ron Klain, newly named to coordinate public health efforts at home and assistance to West Africa where Ebola has killed more than 4,800 people.
"The public health infrastructure and systems that we are now putting in place across the board around the country should give the American people confidence that we're going to be in a position to deal with any additional cases of Ebola that might crop up without it turning into an outbreak," Obama said.
The president's more upbeat tone was in sharp contrast to last week when he called for a more aggressive response by his administration upon learning that one of two nurses diagnosed with Ebola had earlier traveled on a commercial airliner from Dallas to Cleveland and back.
Obama noted Wednesday that numerous relatives of Thomas Eric Duncan, the only person to die of Ebola in the U.S., have been released from quarantine, and that two Dallas nurses infected with the virus as a result of treating the Liberian man "seem to be doing better."
Later Wednesday, the family of one of the nurses said doctors no longer could detect the virus in her body.
Obama also spoke by telephone with some of the nurses' colleagues at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.
In the Oval Office, Obama added that a declaration by the World Health Organization that Nigeria is now Ebola-free was a hopeful sign, as he sought to further allay the American public's fears over a disease that has claimed thousands of lives far from U.S. shores.
"It gives you some sense that when it is caught early and where the public health infrastructure operates effectively, this outbreak can be stopped," he said.
Obama said that in addition to $1 billion from the United States, the international community had committed another $1 billion to begin building isolation units in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. The U.S. has pledged to send up to 4,000 troops to build treatment units and to train health care workers in the region. Obama said that as of now, the U.S. has 100 workers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and 500 military personnel in West Africa.
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