WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — President Barack Obama warns the Ebola virus could mutate if it is not controlled.
Speaking to NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” Obama said that the Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa is a national security policy and that the United States has a responsibility to help contain it.
“What I’ve said, and I said this two months ago to our national security team, is we have to make this a national security priority,” Obama stated. “We have to mobilize the international community, get resources in there.”
Obama doesn’t believe the outbreak will reach the U.S., but noted that the virus may not be controllable in West Africa for months.
“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,” Obama told NBC News. “It becomes more easily transmittable. And then it could be a serious danger to the United States.”
Obama also shot back at critics who claim the U.S. doesn’t need to spend taxpayer dollars on public health aid in developing countries.
“When we make those short-term investments now, it really pays a lot of dividends in the future,” Obama said.
Obama’s comments on the Ebola outbreak come as the White House sent Congress a request for $30 million to pay for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s efforts to help contain the Ebola outbreak in western Africa.
The administration wants the money added to a spending bill to keep government agencies running until mid-December and comes on top of $58 million it requested above current levels to speed the production of promising drugs to fight the deadly disease.
The White House is also seeking additional flexibility for the Homeland Security Department to cope with the thousands of unaccompanied Central American children still arriving at the southern border.
The $30 million request would pay for agency epidemiologists and intelligence officers who are tracing the spread of the disease in Africa, boosting the number of staff from 100 to 150 or more. It would also pay for support staff in the U.S.
An earlier $58 million request for the Centers for Disease Control would help the agency ramp up production and testing of the experimental drug ZMapp, which has shown promise in fighting the Ebola epidemic in western Africa. It would also help keep the development and manufacturing of two Ebola vaccines on track. The White House request seeks to use $10 million in unused balances at the Department of Health and Human Services to help with the Ebola outbreak in Africa.
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