In a press conference after U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Wednesday, United States President Barack Obama answered a question concerning the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, that the World Health Organization called an “extraordinary event”, from the Associated Press.
Here is the transcript of the question and answer:
Q Thank you, Mr. President. There’s been a lot of discussion surrounding this summit about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. And there’s an untested and unapproved drug in the U.S. that appears to be helping some of the Americans who are infected. Is your administration considering at all sending supplies of this drug if it becomes available to some of these countries in West Africa? And could you discuss a bit the ethics of either providing an untested drug to a foreign country, or providing it only to Americans and not to other countries that are harder hit if it could possibly save lives?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think we’ve got to let the science guide us. And I don’t think all the information is in on whether this drug is helpful. What we do know is that the Ebola virus, both currently and in the past, is controllable if you have a strong public health infrastructure in place.
And the countries that have been affected are the first to admit that what’s happened here is, is that their public health systems have been overwhelmed. They weren’t able to identify and then isolate cases quickly enough. You did not have a strong trust relationship between some of the communities that were affected and public health workers. As a consequence, it spread more rapidly than has been typical with the periodic Ebola outbreaks that have occurred previously.
But despite obviously the extraordinary pain and hardship of the families and persons who’ve been affected, and despite the fact that we have to take this very seriously, it is important to remind ourselves this is not an airborne disease; this is one that can be controlled and contained very effectively if we use the right protocols.
So what we’ve done is to make sure that we’re surging not just U.S. resources, but we’ve reached out to European partners and partners from other countries, working with the WHO. Let’s get all the health workers that we need on the ground. Let’s help to bolster the systems that they already have in place. Let’s nip as early as possible any additional outbreaks of the disease. And then during the course of that process, I think it’s entirely appropriate for us to see if there are additional drugs or medical treatments that can improve the survivability of what is a very deadly and obviously brutal disease.
So we’re going to — we’re focusing on the public health approach right now because we know how to do that. But I will continue to seek information about what we’re learning with respect to these drugs going forward.
Q If this drug proves to be effective, would you support fast-tracking its approval in the United States?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think it’s premature for me to say that because I don’t have enough information. I don’t have enough data right now to offer an opinion on that.