In little noticed comments made earlier this week, President Barack Obama said that the Ebola outbreak in the United States could be a “trial run” for a deadlier airborne disease in the future.
During remarks made after a White House meeting with the administration’s Ebola Response Coordinator Ron Klain, Obama tried to reassure the public that the U.S. health infrastructure was prepared to deal with additional cases of Ebola.
However, the President raised some eyebrows when he suggested that the current outbreak could merely be a precursor to a more deadly epidemic.
“If there is a silver lining in all the attention that the Ebola situation has received over the last several weeks, it’s a reminder of how important our public health systems are, and in many ways what this has done is elevated that importance,” said Obama.
“There may come a time sometime in the future where we are dealing with an airborne disease that is much easier to catch and is deadlyand in some ways this has created a trial run for federal, state and public health officials and health care providers as well as the American people to understand the nature of that and why it’s so important that we’re continually building out our public health systems but we’re also practicing them and keeping them in tip top shape and investing in them,” added Obama (emphasis mine).
Obama’s suggestion that the current Ebola outbreak may merely be a means of helping health authorities prepare for a much deadlier outbreak of an airborne virus is likely to pique the interest of those who have expressed concerns about the CDC’s measures for dealing with an outbreak of a communicable disease, which allow for the quarantine of “well persons” who “do not show symptoms” of the disease.
While the White House has failed to block incoming travelers from West Africa, President Obama did sign an executive order at the end of July which allows for the apprehension and detention of Americans who merely show signs of “respiratory illness.”