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U.S. officials firm that Ebola case under control

Hazardous material cleaners prepare Friday to hang black plastic outside the apartment in Dallas where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan stayed last week. (Associated Press)
Hazardous material cleaners prepare Friday to hang black plastic outside the apartment in Dallas where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan stayed last week. (Associated Press)
Lolita C. Baldor Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration on Friday urged calm over the single case of Ebola in the United States, seeking to reassure the American public that there is little chance of an outbreak of the illness in this country. The Pentagon said it had begun the long-awaited aid to disease-ravaged Liberia, with medical testing at two new labs and construction of treatment centers.

The administration has long contended that the best way to contain Ebola is to attack it at its source. The Pentagon’s spokesman said Friday that up to 4,000 troops could be deployed to West Africa, a number that has been slowly climbing as military leaders arrive and assess the need.

But in the U.S., “we need to get the information out because there is a lot of fear,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, infectious diseases chief at the National Institutes of Health.

“Our health care infrastructure in the United States is well-equipped to stop Ebola in its tracks.”

The unusual high-level briefing at the White House on Friday reflected the administration’s urgency in seeking to reassure the public that a widespread outbreak of Ebola in the U.S. is unlikely.

Fauci was one of five senior administration officials who briefed reporters Friday, including Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Lisa Monaco, President Barack Obama’s top homeland security adviser.

Monaco said the U.S. was not considering a travel ban to prevent people from the hardest-hit West African countries from coming to the U.S. and said efforts instead were focused on identifying high-risk individuals before they leave the outbreak zone.

Dozens and dozens of people have been stopped from getting on flights in the region, she said.

“The most effective way to go about controlling this is to prevent those individuals from getting on a plane in the first place,” she said.

The first person diagnosed with Ebola in the nation went to a Dallas hospital last week but mistakenly was sent home, despite revealing he was visiting from Liberia, before returning by ambulance days later.

“There were things that did not go the way they should have in Dallas,” acknowledged Fauci, director of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“But there were a lot of things that went right and are going right.”

The White House said Obama planned to meet with his national security advisers Monday to discuss the Ebola outbreak and the administration’s response.

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