President Obama said he would need more information about a set of experimental drugs before he could advocate sharing the treatment with West African nations fighting the Ebola virus.
“I don’t have enough data right now to offer an opinion on that,” Obama told reporters at a news conference Wednesday.
“I think we’ve got to let the science guide," he added. "I don’t think all the information is in on whether this drug is helpful.”
For now, “we’re focusing on the public health approach," Obama said. "I will continue to seek information about what we’re learning about these drugs going forward.”
Nigeria has contacted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about obtaining the experimental drugs used to treat two Americans infected with the disease. Both are being treated in Atlanta.
The World Health Organization announced Wednesday that 1,711 people in West Africa had been diagnosed with the disease and 932 had died. The outbreak has been concentrated in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Nigerian authorities Wednesday announced five new Ebola cases and two deaths. Experts have expressed grave concern about the disease spreading to Lagos, Nigeria, one of the continent’s most populous cities.
As he wrapped a summit of African leaders in Washington, Obama told reporters that the U.S. was focused on assisting the affected countries in trying to contain the disease. He noted that the disease is not airborne.
“The Ebola virus is controllable if you have a strong public health structure in place,” he said.
The virus stole some headlines from Obama’s Africa summit. The three-day meeting that ended Wednesday was focused primarily on spurring corporate investment in African countries. Obama announced $33 billion in new trade and investment agreements.
But the White House was criticized for not putting the Ebola crisis on the formal agenda and missing an opportunity to focus African leaders’ attention on the issue.
A statement issued by the leaders Wednesday made one reference to the disease, saying the leaders were “committed to redoubling efforts to control the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa and, critically, working together to share expertise, as Africa moves towards the realization of the African Center for Disease Control and Prevention.”
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