By Shaun Gibson @ShaunyNews
US President Barack Obama has urged Americans not to give in to ebola “hysteria”, as he said he has hugged nurses who have treated patients with the disease. In his weekly address to the nation on Saturday, Mr Obama also fended off calls for an air travel ban from affected countries, saying such a move might only worsen the crisis. Mr Obama stressed that the US was not seeing an ebola “outbreak”, following the death of a Liberian national from the disease in Dallas this month, and the infection of two nurses who treated him. In the latest false alarm since then, Hazmat-suited crews descended on the Pentagon on Friday when a woman claimed to be unwell after returning from a trip to Liberia. Federal sources said she later admitted making up the story.
Mr Obama said: “This is a serious disease, but we can’t give in to hysteria or fear – because that only makes it harder to get people the accurate information they need. We have to be guided by the science. We have to remember the basic facts.” A day after a Harvard University poll found 85% of Americans believe ebola can be spread through sneezing or coughing, Mr Obama said the virus was not transmitted through the air like the flu. The US President continued: “I’ve met and hugged some of the doctors and nurses who’ve treated ebola patients. I’ve met with an ebola patient who recovered, right in the Oval Office, and I’m fine.” Mr Obama – who has appointed an ebola czar to co-ordinate Washington’s response – also said a travel ban for West Africa, epicentre of the outbreak, was not the solution. “Trying to seal off an entire region of the world – if that were even possible – could actually make the situation worse,” he said. His call for calm was in stark contrast to World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, who said on Friday: “We are losing the battle.”
The World Health Organization says 4,555 people have died from the disease out of 9,216 registered cases, all but a few in West Africa. US health officials are trying to contact passengers on two flights between Texas and Ohio boarded by a nurse who later tested positive for ebola. In Ohio, they are monitoring more than 100 people following the visit by Amber Vinson. The other Dallas nurse, Nina Pham, was in a fair and stable condition at a federal facility in Maryland on Friday. A Caribbean cruise ship is meanwhile making its way back to the US with another Dallas health worker quarantined in a cabin because she handled lab samples from the Liberian patient. The Carnival Magic failed to get clearance to dock in Cozumel, Mexico, and officials in Belize would not allow the woman to leave the ship. The vessel is due to return to its home port of Galveston, Texas, on Sunday as scheduled.
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