White House officials touted the nation's capable health care system and urged calm Friday amid an ongoing Ebola outbreak. Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco was joined by officials from Health and Human Services, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and United States Africa Command during a press conference aimed at quieting fears that Ebola will spread across the U.S.
"The United States is prepared to deal with this crisis, both at home and in the region," Ms. Monaco told reporters during the briefing. "Every Ebola outbreak in the past 40 years has been stopped. We know how to do this, and we will do it again."
While U.S. local and national governments have increased screening capacity and taken a number of precautionary measures to control the spread of Ebola, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci stressed that the virus isn't easily spread.
"An individual would have to have direct contact with somebody experiencing the symptoms or has died of the disease," Fauci said. Government agencies are also working to develop new vaccines for Ebola, he added.
A man in Dallas, Texas, contracted Ebola in Liberia before arriving in the U.S. last month and developed symptoms on Sept. 20. Though four people close to Thomas Eric Duncan were quarantined in a Dallas apartment, officials are currently monitoring 50 people who may have had contact with Duncan, USA Today reported.
Duncan is the first person to develop Ebola symptoms in the United States, but he isn’t the first person with the virus to be treated here. Two American aid workers were flown to Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital from Liberia after being diagnosed with the virus in August. A month later, an American doctor working in Liberia was flown to a Nebraska hospital for treatment but was later transferred to Emory as well.
Ashoka Mukpo, 33, an NBC News cameraman working in Liberia, tested positive for Ebola on Wednesday and was quarantined on Thursday. Mukpo is expected to be flown back to the United States for treatment, along with his entire crew, who will be quarantined for 21 days, according to the Washington Post.
USAid, the United States' foreign aid agency, is providing assistance in West Africa by building out Ebola treatment units and distributing tens of thousands of hygiene kits to communities in the region. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed over 3,000 people, according to the World Health Organization.
The White House press conference Friday came hours after the Pentagon announced that it is preparing to send 3,600 U.S. military troops into West Africa to aid the fight against the outbreak, according to NBC News. Hundreds have already been sent to the region to begin work on a number of treatment centers and medical labs throughout Liberia and other West African countries.