The White House maintained today that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa “is not a risk to the United States at this time.”
Two American aid workers in Liberia have tested positive for the virus, and a Minnesota man who had been working for the Liberian government died after taking a flight to Nigeria 10 days ago. The wife of 40-year-old Patrick Sawyer said he had planned to come visit Minnesota next month to see their three young children.
“We are aware of the reports that U.S. citizens have been diagnosed with the virus. We have no higher priority than the protection of U.S. citizens overseas. But again, as the CDC has stated, there’s no significant risk to the United States,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters today aboard Air Force One.
African leaders are converging upon the White House next week for a summit. “We’re working closely with regional governments to stem the spread of the virus. We have no plans to change any elements of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, as we believe all air travel continues to be safe here,” Schultz said. “…I’m responsible for a lot of things; the travel of African leaders is not one of them. So I’d encourage you to check in with them.”
Schultz said they would “continue to monitor the outbreak of the Ebola virus in Guinea, in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria closely.”
“The president is indeed receiving regular updates, including speaking with his Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor Lisa Monaco as early as yesterday before departing Washington,” he said. “The U.S. government, including the Departments of State, Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control, USAID and the Department of Defense, continue to provide a range of support and assistance to those countries and multinational organizations responding to the outbreak.”
“This includes the provision of personal protective equipment and other essential supplies, public health messaging and technical expertise. We’ve actually been engaged in this outbreak since March. Obviously, our response has been ratcheted up in the past few weeks.”
The CDC last issued an update on the outbreak Monday.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters at the daily press briefing that “the U.S. missions in the affected areas have distributed messages to U.S. citizens regarding the Ebola attack and those missions are closely monitoring the situation, continue to keep American citizens informed of what’s happening.”
“In terms of the CDC, who we’ve been working very closely with, we the State Department, the CDC has stated there’s no significant risk in the United States from the current Ebola outbreak. Obviously they’ve put out some information to travelers about how they could possibly come in contact with Ebola. Healthcare providers are – who have come in contact with patients or were in close contact with ill people are at the highest risk for this. But they have put out some sort of things to watch out for as well,” Harf said.
“According to the CDC, travelers become infected – could become infected if they come into contact with blood or other body fluids from someone who is sick or has died,” she added. “It’s not – you can’t just be in the room with someone and contract Ebola.”
“Yeah, but a plane is like a festering cesspool of germs,” shot back a reporter.