President Barack Obama said the international community needs to respond to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, where he said a lack of public health infrastructure has led to the spread of a “containable problem.”
Obama told NBC News that U.S. military assets are needed to set up isolation units and equipment and to provide security for international health workers.
“If we don’t make that effort now, and this spreads not just through Africa but other parts of the world, there’s the prospect then that the virus mutates, it becomes more easily transmittable,” said Obama.
Obama also said he believes the United States needs to make dealing with the Ebola outbreak a national security priority.
The Ebola outbreak has killed more than 2,000 people, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Liberian Defense Minister Brownie Samukai told VOA that his country looks forward to any U.S. assistance, saying Liberia’s economy is “at a standstill” and that it is challenging for the country to provide its citizens basic health care.
African Union officials held an emergency meeting Monday in Addis Ababa to discuss how to respond. The discussion included talks about the effects of closing borders and suspending flights to the affected countries.
AU chairman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma stressed the need for public health education and efforts that do not “fuel stigmatization and isolation.”
Meanwhile, new studies show that an experimental Ebola vaccine, which is being tested on monkeys, can work for five weeks or up to 10 months if used in conjunction with a booster shot.
In a study published Sunday in the journal Nature Medicine, researchers from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) say the experimental vaccine regimen produced durable immunity against the deadly virus.
Researchers say a single dose of the vaccine protected all four test monkeys when exposed to Ebola five weeks later. They said half were protected when exposed to the virus 10 months after vaccination.
However, in tests on a separate group of monkeys, scientists say a booster shot, given two months after the initial vaccination, extended protection for all vaccinated monkeys for up to 10 months.
The vaccine tested by the NIH is similar to one being developed by drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline.