President Barack Obama urged his top national security and public health officials on Monday to incorporate lessons from the most recent Texas Ebola infection into the U.S.’s response plans to the deadly virus. He also called on the international community to deliver assistance more quickly to the countries of West Africa that are struggling against the disease.
Obama huddled with senior advisers in the Oval Office and placed calls to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and French President Francois Hollande on a day largely devoted to the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia and to the infection of a nurse in Dallas, the first person known to catch the disease in the U.S.
Obama met with national security adviser Susan Rice, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and Lisa Monaco, his top aide on homeland security and counterterrorism issues. Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, joined the meeting by phone.
The White House said Burwell and Frieden described an increase in resources and personnel to help investigate the Dallas case as well as steps to increase training for public health workers across the country. The White House said Obama stressed that the investigation move quickly to better inform the response to the illness.
The nurse had treated a Liberian man who died at the hospital after bringing the disease from Liberia.
The meeting came shortly after Frieden urged hospitals to be on greater alert for patients with fever or symptoms of Ebola who have traveled from the three Ebola-stricken African nations in the past 21 days.
The CDC is now monitoring all hospital workers who treated the Liberian man. Frieden said he wouldn’t be surprised if another hospital worker who cared for that patient when he was very sick becomes ill.
The White House said that in his call with Ban, Obama “stressed the need for all U.N. member states to support the U.N. appeal, and to provide the personnel, equipment, and supplies required to stop the epidemic at its source and halt the devastating impact of this crisis on the affected countries and their citizens.”
Obama has tried to maintain a high profile on the Ebola crisis in West Africa, especially since Thomas Eric Duncan fell ill in Texas after traveling from his home in Liberia.
On Sunday, the White House gathered reporters and photographers on the portico outside the Oval Office to observe Obama on the phone with Burwell regarding the Dallas Ebola diagnosis. On Monday, photographers were permitted into the Oval Office at the beginning of his meeting with senior officials.
In his talk with Hollande Monday, Obama and the French president discussed the need for treatment facilities in West Africa and steps needed to prevent the spread of Ebola outside the affected region.
The French presidency said in a statement Monday that the two leaders discussed the possibility of starting a screening program for passengers from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. France will also accept a request by Guinean authorities to set up additional Ebola treatment centers, the presidency said. France is already building one such center in Guinea.
The White House said Obama and Hollande also discussed the threat from Islamic State, including France’s participation in air strikes against the extremists in Iraq and its training of Iraqi Security Forces.