WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama on Wednesday hailed “heroic” US health workers battling Ebola, seeking to reassure the public amid controversy over quarantine measures imposed by some authorities including the Pentagon.
Speaking at the White House after meeting with returned health workers including Kent Brantly, an American doctor infected with the often-deadly disease in Liberia, Obama said those who volunteer on the front lines should be applauded for their service.
“We need to call them what they are, which is American heroes,” Obama said.
“They deserve our gratitude, and they deserve to be treated with dignity and with respect,” he said, adding that it was in America’s interests to stop Ebola at its source.
The US leader’s remarks followed raging controversy about measures taken by officials in New Jersey and New York to quarantine individuals returning from treating Ebola-infected patients in West Africa.
A nurse from Maine was placed in isolation at a Newark medical facility after returning from West Africa, before being released on Monday after threatening to sue authorities.
California on Wednesday became the latest state to announce quarantine rules, declaring that individuals returning to the state from the worst-hit areas who had come into close contact with an infected person would need to be quarantined.
Experts say quarantining medical professionals who have shown no symptoms of the disease is counter-productive and could deter other US workers from heading to the frontlines of the Ebola crisis.
Warning against “fear, hysteria and misinformation,” Obama did not directly mention the measures taken by individual states that have stoked controversy.
Instead he defended “sensible, scientific” guidelines set out by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday.
The CDC has urged active monitoring of those at risk, meaning they must be checked for fever daily for 21 days and must restrict their travel and public activities for the duration of the virus’s incubation period.