By Michael Bowman – WASHINGTON—A top U.S. health official says it is unrealistic to expect every hospital in America to be able to care for an Ebola patient, but that health care facilities must be vigilant for possible cases and be ready to isolate anyone infected with the virus for transport to specialized treatment centers.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke one day after President Barack Obama warned against mass-panic over the disease.
A collective sigh of relief could be felt aboard a cruise ship that docked in Texas after a passenger tested negative for Ebola.
A Coast Guard helicopter was dispatched to collect a blood sample from a woman who had handled specimens from America’s first Ebola patient, Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan, who died earlier this month in Dallas.
The episode points to mounting fears and evolving health protocols to deal with the virus.
Last week, America’s second Ebola patient, Dallas nurse Nina Pham, was transferred to the nation’s premier health research facility, the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, for treatment.
Fauci said it’s important to remain realistic about the .
“I think this idea that every single hospital can take care of a seriously ill Ebola patient right now is not true. We do not want people to think that any community hospital is totally equipped to care for a patient,” said Fauci, speaking on ABC’s This Week program.
Earlier, Obama attempted to calm an increasingly alarmed American public during his weekly Saturday address.
“This is a serious disease, but we cannot give in to hysteria or fear. Now, even one infection is too many. At the same time, we have to keep this in perspective. As our public health experts point out, every year thousands of Americans die from the flu,” Obama said.
But a growing chorus of critics, including some Republican and Democrat lawmakers, want stronger measures to isolate the United States from West African nations where Ebola has killed more than 4,500 people.
Congressman Fred Upton is among them. “I am going to encourage the president to really put in a no-fly zone from that region of the world, particularly for folks trying to travel here on a visa,” he said.
Obama said stopping flights to and from West Africa could make the situation worse by disrupting the flow of supplies and health workers to affected regions and causing passengers to go through third countries and possibly evade screening for Ebola.