President Obama said Sunday that the U.S. military will begin aiding what has been a chaotic and ineffective response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, arguing that it represents a serious national security concern.
The move is a significant ramp up in the U.S. response and comes as the already-strained military is likely to be called upon further to address militant threats in the Middle East. The decision to involve the military in providing equipment and other assistance for international health workers in Africa comes after mounting calls from some unlikely groups — most prominently the international medical group Doctors Without Borders — demonstrating to the White House the urgency of the issue.
The epidemic, which has killed at least 2,100 people in five African countries, is unlikely to spread to the United States in the short term, Obama said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” But if the United States and other countries do not send needed equipment, public health workers and other supplies to the region, that situation could change and the virus could mutate to become more transmissible, he said.
“And then it could be a serious danger to the United States,” Obama said.
“We’re going to have to get U.S. military assets just to set up, for example, isolation units and equipment there,” he said, “to provide security for public health workers surging from around the world.”