Obama may appoint an 'Ebola czar'

Obama may appoint an 'Ebola czar'
(Image credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

President Obama said Thursday that he may appoint an Ebola "czar," or a single official handling the containment of Ebola in the U.S., "just to make sure that we are crossing all the t's and dotting all the i's going forward." The two nurses who contracted the disease in Dallas from dying patient Thomas Duncan have both been moved to special hospitals in Atlanta and outside Washington.

Obama said that an Ebola czar would make sense because other public health officials — notably, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) chief Dr. Thomas Frieden, who faced a rough grilling before an election-season House panel on Thursday — "are also responsible for a whole bunch of other stuff."

Obama also said he has no "philosophical objection necessarily to a travel ban" for people from West Africa, as several Republican officials have called for, but that the experts say such a ban could make the situation worse. "The most important thing I can do for keeping the American people safe is for us to be able to deal with Ebola at the source, where you have a huge outbreak in West Africa," Obama added.

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Although only two people have contracted the disease in the U.S., Ebola fear is spreading. In an Oct. 8-12 poll by the Harvard School of Public Health, 52 percent of respondents said they are concerned there will be a major Ebola outbreak in the U.S. But even in August, long before there were any U.S. cases, 39 percent of respondents gave the same answer. In Thursday's hearing, Frieden told lawmakers that Ebola is not a "significant public-health threat to the United States."

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.