As the United States imposes tighter constraints on new arrivals from the three nations at the centre of West Africa’s Ebola epidemic, President Barack Obama has expressed cautious optimism about the situation on home soil.
He was speaking in the White House after meeting his Ebola response coordinator, Ron Klain, and other top officials on Klain’s first day on the job since being named on Friday.
Alongside enhanced screening at airports, travellers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea will be told to check in with health officials every day and report their temperatures and any Ebola symptoms for 21 days, the period of incubation for the virus.
They will also be required to provide emails, phone numbers and addresses for themselves and for a friend or relative in the United States covering the 21 days, and the information will be shared with local health authorities.
The travellers will additionally be required to coordinate with local public health officials if they intend to travel within the US. If a traveller does not report in, local health officials will take immediate steps to find the person.
Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan died on October 8 after becoming the first person diagnosed with the virus in the US.
“We now have seen dozens of persons who had initial interaction with Mr Duncan, including his family and friends, and in some cases people who have had fairly significant contact with him, have now been cleared and we are confident that they do not have Ebola,” Obama said.
Amber Vinson – one of two nurses infected as she cared for Mr Duncan in Dallas – is now free of Ebola according to her family. The condition of her colleague Nina Pham is said to be improving.
Obama said officials were working to ensure that problems that arose with Ebola protocols at the Dallas hospital do not occur again. He expressed confidence that any further Ebola patients would get first-class treatment and said officials would make sure hospitals are prepared and would take the right precautions.
American NBC freelance cameraman Ashoka Mukpo, who contracted Ebola while working in West Africa, is cured and has now left the hospital in Nebraska where he was being treated.