America’s top disease prevention official says he remains confident the United States will not experience a significant outbreak of Ebola, but that containment in Africa is critical to reducing risks elsewhere in the world.
At present, a Liberian man in Dallas, Texas, is the only confirmed active Ebola case known in the United States. But swift responses to recent false alarms show a national medical community on high alert, including the mobilization of a disease control unit to meet an incoming international flight on which an African man had become ill - as it turns out, with something other than Ebola.
The Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tom Frieden, says there is no cause for panic.
“Here in the U.S., I remain quite confident we will not have a widespread outbreak. We will stop it in its tracks. We have got infection control [units] in hospitals and public health that tracks and isolates people if they get symptoms,” said Frieden, speaking on ABC’s This Week program.
He emphasized that, ultimately, Ebola must be controlled at its source.
“I am quite concerned, the longer this goes on in these three West African countries, the greater the possibility that other countries in Africa are going to have to fight this on their territory, as well. We have to recognize that, try as we might, until the outbreak is controlled in Africa, we cannot get the risk here to zero,” said Frieden.
The United States has dispatched military and civilian personnel to West Africa to help combat the virus, which has claimed more than 3,000 lives in recent months. Meanwhile, some African immigrants in the United States say they fear being shunned if the public’s apprehensions about Ebola escalate to widespread panic.
“Just being a black person or just being a citizen from Africa does not mean you have Ebola,” said Steve Oriabure, a Nigerian immigrant in Dallas.
Ebola is transmitted by direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person or corpse. Symptoms appear two to 21 days after infection.