- The Washington Times - Friday, October 3, 2014

The Obama administration sought Friday to tamp down fears of an Ebola outbreak within the U.S., making the case that America’s infrastructure and health care systems set it apart from the horrific scenes coming out of West Africa, even as a confirmed case in Dallas and recent scares in the nation’s capital prompt fears of a domestic problem.

“The United States is prepared to deal with the crisis,” Lisa Monaco, homeland security adviser to President Obama, told reporters at a White House briefing on the response to the deadly virus.

At the same time, officials said they understood the alarm that Americans have over the diagnosis in Texas.

Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian national who came to Dallas on Sept. 20, is in serious condition after he fell ill and sought treatment days after he arrived, prompting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to retrace his steps in the community.

“We recognize the concern that even a single case of Ebola causes on our shores,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said.

Offiicals said they will learn from issues in Dallas. For instance, the medical team that initially saw Mr. Duncan did not share information about his past in Liberia, and it took days for a potentially contemned apartment to be cleaned.

“Even though there were missteps, there were good things that happened there, also,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Hoping to reassure Americans, officials reiterated a set of talking points about Ebola, notably that it is not spread by air. Rather, it is contracted by coming into contact with bodily fluids of an infected person.

“It is not easily transmitted,” Mr. Fauci said.

Mr. Fauci noted it is unfortunate that the thing that “holds families together” — physically comforting each other in times of duress — is what spreads the disease. That, and unsafe funeral procedures, also explains how the situation got out of hand in West Africa.

The administration has dedicated up to 3,000 members of the U.S. military to stop the outbreak at its source in West Africa, and it is continuing to update guidance to airlines and airport officials who screen passengers from affected countries such as Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Liberia, officials said.

A person who recently traveled in Nigeria showed symptoms of Ebola at Howard University Hospital in Washington on Friday. Officials put the person in isolation to conduct tests, but could not did additional information.

Another patient, who had a travel history and symptoms consistent with Ebola, was isolated at a hospital outside of Washington but is improving and appears to be suffering from a separate illness.

Ms. Monaco said every hospital in the country has the ability to isolate any suspected cases, such as the ones in and around the District.

“They will be addressed, those tests will be undertaken,” Ms. Monaco said.

The recent episodes have raised the specter of a travel ban between U.S. and West Africa, but the White House threw cold water on those plans for now, noting it is important to get aid to and from the affected region.

Earlier Friday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said there is no consideration of a travel ban at this point.

He said there is a “sophisticated multilayer screening system” at airports in Africa to make sure individuals don’t board an airplane if they have symptoms.

Yet Liberian authorities have threatened to prosecute Mr. Duncan, the infected patient in Dallas, alleging he lied on a screening form before boarding his flight to Brussels, Belgium en route to the U.S.

They cite witnesses who say Mr. Duncan lived among and assisted people who had Ebola.

Ben Wolfgang contributed to this report.

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