WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama said he was considering appointing an Ebola “czar” to coordinate the fight against the virus in the United States, but he remained opposed to a ban on travel from West Africa.
Obama’s administration is facing sharp criti-cism from lawmakers over its efforts to contain the disease at home. Obama authorised calling up military reservists for the US fight against Ebola in West Africa on Thursday.
US concerns have intensified after two Texas nurses who cared for a dying Liberian patient contracted the virus that has killed nearly 4,500 people. Federal health officials said they were broadening their outreach to people who may have come into contact with one of the workers.
Spain is also grappling with the spread of the disease, with four new patients with suspected Ebola symptoms admitted to hospitals.
The disease continues to spread in West Africa where the outbreak began in March, and reached the last remaining district in Sierra Leone that had not been affected by Ebola.
US lawmakers held a congressional hearing about the administration’s handling of the Ebola outbreak in the United States. Some have called for a czar and a ban on travel from West Africa.
“It may be appropriate for me to appoint an additional person” to oversee efforts to contain Ebola, Obama told reporters after meeting aides involved in the fight against the disease.
Obama said experts have told him “a flat-out travel ban is not the way to go” because current screening measures at airports are working.
He said he had no philosophical objection to a travel ban but that some travellers might attempt to enter the United States by avoiding screening measures, which could lead to more Ebola cases, not fewer.
Jamaica announced an immediate travel ban on Thursday. South America’s Guyana said it has denied entry to citizens from four Ebola-hit West African nations during the past five weeks.
US Federal Aviation Administration chief Mi-chael Huerta told reporters separately that the government was assessing whether to issue a travel ban “on a day-to-day basis”.
Amber Vinson, one of the nurses who treated the Ebola patient at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas and contracted the virus, travelled to Ohio over the weekend on a Frontier Airlines flight while running a slight fever.
Dr Christopher Braden, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC), said Vinson may have been ill as early as Friday, when she boarded the flight from Dallas
to Cleveland. Vinson returned to Texas on Mon-day.