Hello. I want to take a few moments to speak directly to you—the people of West Africa, especially in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria. On behalf of the American people, I want you to know that our prayers are with those of you who have lost loved ones during this terrible outbreak of Ebola. Along with our partners around the world, the United States is working with your governments to help stop this disease. And the first step in this fight is knowing the facts.
First, Ebola is not spread through the air like the flu. You cannot get it from casual contact, like sitting next to someone on a bus. You cannot get it from another person until they show the symptoms of the disease, like fever.
Second, the most common way you can get Ebola is by touching the body fluids of someone who’s sick or has died from it—like their sweat, saliva or blood—or through a contaminated item, like a needle. That’s why the disease is continuing to spread where patients are being cared for at home or during burials when families and friends lay their loved one to rest.
That’s why health care workers wear protection like gloves and masks. It’s why, if you feel sick with a high fever, you should get help right away—because with prompt treatment in a medical center, nearly half of patients can recover. And it’s why, when burying someone who died from this disease, it’s important to not directly touch their body; you can respect your traditions and honor your loved ones without risking the lives of the living.
Stopping this disease won’t be easy—but we know how to do it. You are not alone. Together, we can treat those who are sick with respect and dignity. We can save lives. And our countries can work together to improve public health, so this kind of outbreak doesn’t happen again. In this urgent work—and in building a stronger and more prosperous Africa—you’ll continue to have a partner in me and in the United States of America.
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Washington on September 2, 2014.