Ebola Outbreak 'Spiraling Out of Control,' President Obama Says

Microscopic view of Ebola virus
(Image credit: lmstockwork/Shutterstock)

If the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is not stopped now, the deadly virus could infect hundreds of thousands of people in the region, which would have profound global consequences, President Barack Obama said today (Sept. 16).

"Here's the hard truth: In West Africa, Ebola is now an epidemic of the likes that we have not seen before. It's spiraling out of control. It is getting worse. It's spreading faster and exponentially," Obama said in a news conference at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

The virus has infected more than 4,000 people so far, and "that number could rapidly grow," Obama said. "If the outbreak is not stopped now, we could be looking at hundreds of thousands of people infected, with profound political and economic and security implications for all of us." [5 Things You Should Know About Ebola]

Obama made the comments as he announced a "major increase" in the United States' response to the Ebola outbreak.

The country will establish a military command center in Liberia, which Major General Darryl Williams will command, and which will support civilian efforts in the region, Obama said. The United States will also create an "air bridge" to get health workers and medical supplies into the region more quickly, Obama said.

New training sites will also be created to train thousands of health care workers, and additional treatment units will be built, which will include more than 1,000 beds, Obama said.

"The world knows how to fight this disease … but we have to act fast," Obama said.

The president also called for a greater response from the international community.

"This epidemic is going to get worse before it gets better, but right now the world still has the opportunity to save countless lives. Right now the world has a responsibility to act, to step up and to do more," Obama said. "The United States of America intends to do more. We're going to keep leading in this effort," he said.

The president also stressed that the risk of an Ebola outbreak in the United States is "extremely low," and that the country has been taking the necessary precautions so it can respond to cases should they arrive.

Health officials are working to "ensure that our doctors, our nurses and our medical staff are trained and ready to deal with a possible case safely," Obama said.

The president also said he met with Dr. Kent Brantly, an American doctor who contracted Ebola in West Africa. Treated in the United States, the doctor was released last month.

"Although he is still having to gain back some weight, he looks great," Obama said. "He looks strong."

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Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.