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Obama stresses need for faster international response to Ebola

Last Updated Oct 15, 2014 9:15 PM EDT

President Obama on Wednesday spoke with world leaders about stepping up the international response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. In a video conference, the president consulted with British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President François Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

"The President stressed the need for a faster and more robust international response to the Ebola epidemic, and underscored the need to increase assistance and international contributions for Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea," the White House said in a statement. "The leaders agreed to work together to enlist greater support from more countries and to coordinate their efforts on the ground."

After a meeting at the White House late Wednesday, the president stressed the "importance of the international response to what is taking place" in Africa.

He warned that preventing an outbreak in the U.S. will become "more difficult" if the epidemic rages out of control in Africa, and he said the investments America was making to prevent that from happening would help keep Americans healthy. "This is not simply charity," he said.

Mr. Obama on Wednesday also canceled scheduled campaign travel stops in New Jersey and Connecticut in order to convene a White House meeting with cabinet officials on the government's response to the disease.

On Wednesday night, the White House announced that Mr. Obama also canceled trips planned for Thursday to New York and Rhode Island and that he would stay at the White House.

Earlier in the day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that a second nurse in Dallas, identified as Amber Vinson, has tested positive for Ebola. She is being transferred to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta from the Texas hospital where she was infected. The CDC also said Vinson had traveled by air a day before presenting symptoms. The agency is attempting to track down all 132 passengers who were aboard a plane with the nurse.

On Wednesday, Mr. Obama expressed his "concern" for the health care workers who have been infected.

He said the government was "reviewing exactly what we know about what has happened in Dallas and how we're going to make sure that something like this is not repeated."

The president said he'd directed the CDC to put together a "rapid response team" to deploy as quickly as possible after a diagnosis of Ebola and take "local hospitals step-by-step through exactly what needs to be done."

The "key thing to understand about this disease is that these protocols work," Mr. Obama said

He also sought to calm fears by pointing out that he had his own personal contact with the staff at an Emory University hospital where one Ebola patient was treated. "I felt perfectly safe doing so," he said.

On Thursday, officials from the CDC, the State Department, Defense Department, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Transportation Department will brief the House of Representatives on the Ebola response.