Obama Says Ebola a Security Priority in Call for Action

When the White House scheduled today’s 44-nation global health security summit in February, the Ebola outbreak that has killed at 2,909 people and infected 6,242 had barely started.

Top health officials from Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America are at the White House to work on a plan to boost the ability of countries, such as those reeling from Ebola to prevent, detect and respond to similar emergencies.

“Fighting this outbreak is a major national security priority for the United States,” President Barack Obama told the group. “In a world as interconnected as ours, outbreaks anywhere even in the most remote villages, the most remote corners of the world, have the opportunity to impact anyone.”

This is the second time this week Obama has issued a call to action for other countries to step up the Ebola fight. He spoke yesterday at a United Nations forum in New York saying the infection is a threat that must be checked. Last week, Obama traveled to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta to announce the U.S. military would take a lead role in coordinating the Ebola response.

Obama said the U.S. issuing a challenge to develop and produce better, easier to use and cooler protective gear for health-care workers in areas where Ebola has hit. “If you develop them, we will buy them and distribute them,” he said.

While not originally aimed at Ebola, the summit’s focus is now on that virus, which has hit Liberia hardest and is also concentrated in Guinea and Sierra Leone.

“Ebola is raging. It kills more than 200 people a day, two thirds of them women,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday as he headed the UN Ebola meeting. “Despite the valiant efforts of local communities, health systems are buckling under the strain.”

The disease may cost Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone as much as $809 million, the World Bank said on Sept. 17.

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