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THE SITUATION ROOM
Obama Meeting with Cabinet About Ebola; New Ebola Patient Being Transferred to Atlanta; Ebola Vaccine in Development; Army Chief of Staff: 'I Don't See Baghdad Falling'; Obama Weighs in on Ebola Crisis
Aired October 15, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: New Ebola patient -- another Dallas nurse is diagnosed with the deadly disease, but why was she flying with a fever only hours before she reported symptoms?
The president canceled his own travel plans for an urgent White House meeting.
Winning strategy -- as the U.S. steps up airstrikes against ISIS, the Joint Chiefs chairman, General Martin Dempsey, speaks exclusively to CNN and leaves open the possibility that U.S. ground troops could be asked to fight.
Plus, new terror threat -- U.S. intelligence deeply worried right now, the chaos in Yemen could help al Qaeda succeed in its goal of attacking the United States.
And hunt for Hannah Graham -- the search for the missing Virginia student entering a new phase. We have the latest details.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: And we're following the breaking news.
Escalating concern right now about Ebola in the United States, with a second Texas nurse now diagnosed with the virus and the troubling revelation that she was on a commercial flight only hours before she was hospitalized in Dallas. There are now growing concerns about Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where the two nurses contracted Ebola after caring for the Liberian patient who died last week. The Centers for Disease Control now saying the newly diagnosed nurse is being flown to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, which has successfully treated two other Ebola patients.
And President Obama is meeting with his cabinet right now to try to deal with this huge crisis.
We're covering all angles of the breaking news with our medical experts, our correspondents.
CNN's Ed Lavandera begins our coverage in Dallas -- Ed, what's the latest that you're hearing over there?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, CDC investigators say they're really taking a look at this latest outbreak. Two health care workers now infected. And they're taking a look at the early days, when Thomas Eric Duncan, the first patient who died from Ebola last week, they're taking a look at those early days as one of the areas of the greatest concern.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): The second infected nurse, Amber Vinson, is a 29-year-old registered nurse from Ohio. She, like nurse Nina Pham, had close contact with Duncan before he died from Ebola. After caring for Duncan, Vinson flew to Ohio to work on wedding plans. She then flew back to Dallas from Cleveland on Frontier Airlines Flight 1143 Monday evening, just one day before her Ebola diagnosis.
DR. TOM FRIEDEN, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: Although she did not report any symptoms and she did not meet the fever threshold of 100.4, she did report at that time that she took her temperature and found it to be 99.5.
LAVANDERA: The CDC says she should not have flown and is reaching out to passengers on that return flight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to deal with facts, not fear.
LAVANDERA: Battles on two fronts, as Texas health officials scramble to contain the deadly Ebola virus and mitigate criticism of preparedness.
ROSEANN DEMORO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL NURSES UNITED: We're deeply alarmed. We've been sounding the alarm that our nurses are not protected, they're not prepared to handle Ebola or any other pandemics. And the protocols that should have been in place in Dallas were not in place.
LAVANDERA: Among questions about protocols and procedure, serious allegations from the nurses union representatives.
DEBORAH BURGER, CO-PRESIDENT, NATIONAL NURSES UNITED: Were the protocols breached?
The nurses say they were no protocols. Nurses had to interact with Mr. Duncan with whatever protective equipment was available at the time when he had copious amounts of diarrhea and vomiting, which produces a lot of contagious fluids.
LAVANDERA: They say that the gear was insufficient and left them exposed and that the guidelines were constantly changing.
DR. DANIEL VARGA, TEXAS HEALTH RESOURCES: A lot is being said about what may or may not have occurred to cause some of our colleagues to contract this disease. But it's clear there was an exposure somewhere, some time in their treatment of Mr. Duncan.
LAVANDERA: The worst, they add, may be yet to come.
JUDGE CLAY JENKINS, DALLAS COUNTY: At the hospital, we have a situation involving 77 people, two of which have tested positive for Ebola. We are preparing contingencies for more. And that is a very real possibility.
LAVANDERA: In what could be seen as a breach of confidence, the CDC says Vinson will be transported from Dallas to the Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, where the first two Ebola patients in the U.S. were successfully cared for.
Meanwhile, Miss. Vinson's apartment is being sanitized and nurse Nina Pham's condition is said to be improving.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
LAVANDERA: So, Wolf, as you hear, officials here will be closely monitoring these other health care workers that were in contact with Thomas Duncan to be on the lookout for more of those symptoms. As I said, they are fully anticipating to perhaps see more of these cases.
And the CDC says that it will put in place at these locations a site manager to ensure that the health care workers who are going in and dealing directly with these patients, that they're properly protected following the proper protocols -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What a story.
Ed Lavandera, thanks very much.
Passengers who were on Amber Vinson's flight from Cleveland to Dallas are now being asked to call the CDC. Frontier Airlines says the plane has been thoroughly cleaned and is actually back in service. But it made multiple trips before the airline learned of Vinson's Ebola diagnosis.
Our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh, is joining us now from Reagan National Airport, just outside Washington, DC -- Rene, the time between the flight and when this nurse reported symptoms is extremely close, within only a few hours.
How likely does the CDC think it is that other passengers potentially right now are at risk?
RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, in the CDC's own words, they say that the risk is low, despite the fact that the time in which between that she landed in Dallas and the time that she reported these symptoms, as you mentioned, extremely close. But they say because she didn't vomit, she didn't excrete those bodily fluids, they do not believe that the other passengers on board are at high risk.
That being said, they are reaching out to those passengers -- we're talking about 132 people who were on board this flight -- to answer any questions and follow-up with them. They even put out this 1-800 phone number for people who were on board this flight. If they have any concerns, they could call the CDC. We dialed that number today and at last check, the wait time to get through, 390 minutes -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Three hundred and ninety minutes?
There's obviously a problem that they have there. And they've got to fix that problem quickly.
What's the status, Rene, of the airplane that she actually flew on from Cleveland down to Dallas?
MARSH: Well, we know that, according to the airline, Frontier Airline, the night it landed there, it stayed overnight in Dallas. The airline says it was thoroughly cleaned. And we also know from officials this morning, they say it was decontaminated two times in a remote area of the airport. So now, by our count, three very thorough cleanings. So they say that this airliner is -- there's no concern at this point, because they have gone through it. They've cleaned it all up. And we do know it's in use. We know that it is scheduled to make a flight to Denver today -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The CDC, Rene, says the nurse should have never stepped foot on that commercial plane, especially even with a low elevated fever.
Whose responsibility was it to make sure that didn't happen?
MARSH: That is the question that we have at this point, Wolf. The CDC made it very clear she shouldn't have gotten on that plane. But the question now -- and I've asked this question to the CDC -- is whose responsibility was it to ensure that she did not board a plane?
And at this point, the information that I'm getting is there was no system in place in which an individual is assigned to ensure that this person who may be self-monitoring or may be under observation doesn't get on a plane.
The CDC says that there are guidelines, but the question becomes, was this nurse aware of those guidelines?
Is this another example of perhaps the information being out there, but the person who needed to know it did not know it?
The CDC now saying, Wolf, though, they will put some measures in place so that this does not happen again.
So we see them reacting to this. They say they'll be working with state and local officials to make sure anyone who possibly came in contact with an Ebola patient and could be infected does not get on a commercial airplane -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Rene, thank you Miss. Vinson).
Rene Marsh over at Reagan National Airport here in Washington.
President Obama canceled travel plans today because of this huge Ebola crisis. Instead, he met with cabinet members coordinating the government's Ebola response.
Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, has got late breaking details.
What is the latest?
I take it the meeting is still anything on, is that right?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, the meeting is still going on. And I can tell you, at this point, TV cameras have not been allowed into that room yet, to pick up on some of the president's remarks. He is expected to make some remarks. We expected that to happen sooner than right now, Wolf. But that just hasn't happened yet.
And, as you know, the president canceled a campaign event that he was supposed to have this evening with the Connecticut governor, Dan Malloy. That was scrapped so the president could be here at the White House and hold this meeting with cabinet officials who are dealing with the Ebola crisis.
You know, earlier today, the White House was saying, you know, in response to questions, well, why is it that the president canceled this event when he's done campaign type activities in the past while dealing with crises?
You'll recall he was on a campaign trip when the flight -- the Malaysian flight crashed in Ukraine. Well, the White House said today the president sometimes has to make the call on a case by case basis to stay back at the White House to deal with a situation like this and so that's why he did what he did today.
But at the same time, Wolf, there are lots of questions, questions about whether or not the president still has confidence in the CDC director, Dr. Thomas Frieden. The White House says yes, he still has confidence.
But the administration is saying very plainly, Wolf, that it is perfectly natural for people to feel fearful about what is happening right now. But what they're trying to say is that the public should have confidence in the administration's ability to respond to the situation down in Dallas. They're pointing out that there still have only been two patients who contracted this virus from the original patient and that that second patient is being transferred to the Emory experts in Atlanta, who know how to deal with Ebola.
But at the same time, Wolf, it raises lots of questions about, once again, whether or not the administration is on top of what is an unfolding crisis.
BLITZER: Jim, stand by, because as soon as the president speaks, we're going to have that for our viewers here in the United States and around the world.
We'll get back to you.
Jim Acosta is over at the White House.
Let's get some more now with our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and tropical medicine specialist, CNN medical analyst, Dr. Alexander van Tulleken -- Sanjay, with know Amber Vinson, the 29- year-old nurse, got on that commercial plane from Cleveland back to Dallas, low grade fever. What, she had like 99.5, something like that.
What protocol exists for these people who are at risk, who are being monitored?
Was there a leadership failure?
What happened here?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we know is that the guidelines basically say this is a situation where there should only be controlled movement. And that's the way it's described, someone who's had extensive contact with an Ebola patient, as Vinson did, we know that, should not have been allowed to fly on a commercial flight. She could just travel in a car or she could go on a charter flight, but not a commercial flight.
So the first flight, the flight that she took from Dallas to Cleveland in the first place, should not have happened based on those sorts of guidelines and recommendations.
I don't know if you can -- I don't know if it's a leadership failure, Wolf, or what it is exactly, maybe people not fully understanding the guidance and the recommendations, not following them. I don't know if Miss. Vinson knew this or was told this.
But, Wolf, keep in mind, you know, we've been talking about screenings at airports in West Africa now for several weeks, right?
What do they do there?
They take your temperature and they also give you a questionnaire, have you come in contact with a patient with Ebola?
And if you have, you get flagged. So that didn't seem to happen here, even though she sort of would have had a hard time probably getting on a plane in West Africa but was able to get on a plane here in the United States for a domestic flight.
So something didn't work here. You know, I feel like I'm saying this over and over again, but it's another -- it's another misstep in a series of missteps over these past -- this past week or so, Wolf.
BLITZER: It's a serious misstep, indeed.
Sanjay, stand by.
Doctor van Tulleken, she had, what, a 99.5 fever. Slightly elevated. But the CDC says that's below the so-called threshold where she potentially could be contagious. They say it has to be a little bit higher.
Here's the question -- how much of a risk was there?
Do they know for sure that 99.5 does -- represents no real threat?
DR. ALEXANDER VAN TULLEKEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I think this is a gray area, because the temperature represents a response to a rising level of virus in her blood. And it's one of the very early signs. So at this stage, she probably did have -- she would have had detectable virus in her blood, but she would have had a fairly low amount of it and she's not having the diarrhea or vomiting that we know is mainly responsible for the spread.
So I think they have a right to say the risk is very low, but what's massively concerning is here is not only should she not have been on a plane, I think she should have been isolated at home and being monitored and have had serial blood tests. And if she'd had a blood test before she'd flown, they would have found the virus.
And that's what's really surprising to me, is we've heard how wide the net was cast. It didn't include these nurses in terms of active surveillance. And it certainly didn't include blood work that would have stopped them flying and potentially gotten the treatment earlier.
So I think they're right to say, you know, if I was on that plane, would I be worried about getting Ebola?
No. But does it really worry me that we can't isolate nurses -- the second nurse, you know, after we'd already had an exposure, that we can't isolate those health care workers and protect them?
Yes, that does worry me a lot.
BLITZER: Sanjay, we're showing our viewers live pictures of a plane. And we believe this is the plane that's going to be carrying Amber Vinson from Dallas to Atlanta, Georgia, the home of Emory University Hospital, a hospital you know well over there -- I take it, Sanjay, that this is, at least in part, a recognition that maybe she can't get the perfect, the excellent treatment in Dallas that, potentially, she could get in Atlanta, is that right?
GUPTA: Yes, perhaps that is the case, Wolf. I would like to know what exactly instigated this transfer and who instigated this?
Was it the hospital?
Was it the CDC?
Was it her family?
But regardless, I think what you're saying, Wolf, is correct.
Now, I do want to point out something that we've talked about, and that is that there is no specific treatment for Ebola. There's no -- I mean there's experimental drugs that we've talked about. There are blood transfusions from people who have already survived Ebola. We know nurse Nina Pham was able to get that in Dallas.
So I think this is less of a treatment issue and more of a containment issue in some way, which is disappointing to say, Wolf, basically saying, look, she is very ill, she's going to be more contagious. I should say she's ill, not very ill. We don't know how ill she is. But she is more ill than Nina Pham, perhaps more contagious.
And, as a result, we think she needs to be at a place like Emory, because we're not sure we can contain this in Dallas.
If that's the case that's disappointing, Wolf. I mean, this is a big hospital, Texas Presbyterian. It's a well-known hospital; it's a great hospital in so many ways. And also Ebola is something that we know has been successfully contained in these tiny tent hospitals in the middle of rural, West and Central Africa, so it can be done.
The fact that it didn't happen in Dallas, I find really disappointing, and I don't know what the problem has been, exactly here, if this is a lack of protocols or just bad protocols or maybe it's been too much confidence and people not abiding by the protocols because they thought "We've got this beat. We don't have to worry about this."
BLITZER: Sanjay, I want you to stay with us. Alexander van Tulleken, stick around, as well. We have a lot more to discuss about what's going on, the breaking news on Ebola.
And also we're going to hear from CNN's Brian Todd. He's received some unusual inside access to a facility where an Ebola vaccine is actually now being tested. Can it help with the current outbreak?
BLITZER: We're following breaking news. A second Texas nurse diagnosed with Ebola, 29-year-old Amber Vinson. Take a look at that. You see that private jet that's right in the front of the -- right in the middle of the screen over there. She's now being transferred, about to be transferred from Texas Health Presbyterian hospital in Dallas where she contracted a virus from a patient from Liberia. She's about to be transferred to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta Georgia. Doctors and nurses at Emory have successfully treated two other Ebola patients.
The unfolding crisis adding urgency to the effort to try to develop some sort of Ebola vaccine. CNN's Brian Todd is working this part of the story for us. Brian, you have some inside access to one of only two labs in the United States testing some sort of Ebola vaccine. What are you finding out?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we did get inside access here. You know, we've known about the Ebola -- the Ebola virus for 38 years, but so far no vaccines have been available for public use. Well, tonight at this U.S. Army facility outside Washington, they are frantically testing a vaccine for the first time on humans.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD (voice-over): Tonight, an urgent need to find a vaccine for Ebola. In this U.S. Army laboratory, vials like these contain the ingredients crucial in the race against the deadly virus. It's one of two Ebola vaccines now being tested in the U.S. for the first time on humans.
(on camera): Can the vaccine be tested here to stop this outbreak?
DR. SHON REMICH, WALTER REED ARMY INSTITUTE OF RESEARCH: Well, it depends on how fast we can get this product through the regulatory pathway so that it can be used in efficacy-type trials. Right now we have to establish that it's safe.
TODD (voice-over): Vaccine investigator Colonel Shon Remich gave us inside access to the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. The VSV Ebola vaccine is being tested here on 39 people. They cannot get Ebola from the vaccine, and officials here say the side effects are minimal.
Experts say when Ebola gets into the body, it often overwhelms the immune system and works too fast for the immune system to combat it. This vaccine is designed to speed up the immune system's ability to fight Ebola.
TODD (on camera): If this vaccine works, could it be used to prevent people from getting the Ebola virus and treat people who already have it?
REMICH: The majority of the sites, we're looking at post-exposure. That means animals that were exposed to the Ebola virus and then treated. We also did some studies that looked at pre-exposure. So we were given the vaccine, the original vaccine, and then exposed. Both of those were good results, and so we are cautiously optimistic.
TODD (voice-over): But will it work in humans?
DR. JESSE GOODMAN, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: To be very realistic, most medicines and vaccines even that look great in animals don't pan out in the long run.
TODD: Even as they run these vaccines through trials, there are serious questions over why it's taken this long. Even though we've known about the Ebola virus since 1976, there are no approved Ebola vaccines available to the public. Why? Experts say Ebola outbreaks until now, haven't been widespread enough.
GOODMAN: It's not on the order, or it hasn't been until recently of a problem like malaria, HIV or TB in terms of how people have prioritized investment in vaccines.
TODD: So how soon can this vaccine be ready? Dr. Remich says they are pushing the testing protocol here as fast as they can, but he and other experts say even under the best of circumstances, the vaccine being tested here or the one being tested at the National Institutes of Health would not be ready for public use, Wolf, for several months. They simply have to make sure that these vaccines are safe.
BLITZER: Brian, can they test these vaccines in those countries in West Africa where the outbreak is at its worst? Talking about Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia?
TODD: Well, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Wolf, he's the director of the Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He says you cannot test them in those particular countries, because the healthcare infrastructure there is not strong enough to support vaccine testing, but they are going to arrange for testing in places nearby like Gambia and Mali, where they have relationships with those governments and infrastructure that can support vaccine testing, Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd in Silver Spring, Maryland, right outside of Washington. Let's hope they come up with this vaccine and do so quickly.
We're standing by, by the way, to hear from President Obama. He's wrapping up a meeting with his cabinet, meeting about the Ebola crisis. We'll have coverage of what the president has to say. Stand by. You'll hear it here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Also, as ISIS grinds down Iraqi forces, is Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, in serious danger of falling? We have an exclusive interview with the chairman of the joint chiefs, General Martin Dempsey.
And a new terror threat, why chaos in a country half a world away may help al Qaeda succeed in its goal in attacking the United States.
Lots of news happening today right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We were told by a Dallas affiliate, WFAA, that an ambulance now has picked up Amber Vinson, the 29-year-old nurse, to take her here. You see this jet, the small jet no longer in the camera shot, but that small jet is going to be taking Amber Vinson from Dallas to Atlanta, Georgia, Emory University Hospital. She's the second nurse who contracted Ebola from Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian individual who unfortunately passed away last week from Ebola.
We'll monitor this story to update you on what's going on.
We're also standing by to hear from the president of the United States. He's been meeting with his cabinet on the Ebola crisis. As soon as he speaks, you'll hear what he has to say. That should be in the next few minutes.
In the meantime, let's move on to some other important news we're following. Heavy coalition airstrikes are slowing the ISIS advance in the besieged town of Kobani right on the Syrian-Turkish border. The U.S. military Central Command says there have been 18 new airstrikes there as Kurdish fighters try to withstand the jihadist onslaught.
There have been another five strikes in Iraq, but ISIS continues to grind down Iraqi forces. Let's bring in CNN's Kyra Phillips sat down for an exclusive interview for the chairman of the joint chiefs General Martin Dempsey. How did it go?
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'll tell you what. General Dempsey, Wolf, made it very clear that those worn-down Iraqi forces will not be getting help from U.S. combat troops right now, but it's not off the table. This campaign, he says, will be carried out by a coalition of forces to not just degrade ISIS where it's manageable, but to defeat it.
PHILLIPS: How confident are you that you can keep Baghdad from falling?
GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, I'm confident we can -- we can assist the Iraqis to keep Baghdad from falling. The Iraqis have established a fairly formidable defensive perimeter around Baghdad, and, you know, it's been augmented by militias and things, so it's a very thick and deep defense.
So I'm confident that Baghdad won't be threatened directly and, of course, ISIL can infiltrate and use vehicle-borne car bombs, and they can, from distance, they can lob in rockets and things. So Baghdad is going to be under threat of attack, but in terms of losing control of bag Baghdad, I don't see that happening.
PHILLIPS: What we're seeing some Iraqi forces not encouraging, and they're abandoning their posts. Leaders in the Anbar province are in retreat. They're saying U.S. forces send combat help. We're in trouble. Can the U.S. rely on this Iraqi fighting force to be the boots on the ground, as President Obama has said?
I think we have a winning strategy in enabling, first of all, developing the offensive capability and enabling Iraqis and Peshmerga through a coalition to actually be the face of this fight against ISIL.
In fact, that is the strategy so that this doesn't become the west against ISIL or Christianity against Islam. So we have a winning strategy. It will take time. It will be hard to measure progress, tactical near-term progress, and we'll have to be adaptive as we go. You know, war is discovery, Kyra. And as we go we'll have to be as adaptable, more adaptable than our enemy. But we have a winning strategy.
PHILLIPS: So how did the U.S. actually get to this point? When the president said that they underestimated ISIS, I asked General Dempsey who actually underestimated ISIS? Was it the White House? Was it the intelligence community. the Pentagon?
And Dempsey told me that he had been watching ISIS since the time it was al Qaeda, talking about the risk every month in counterterrorism meetings. An intel officer even warned back in February that ISIS would re-enter Iraq.
What they underestimated, he said, was the fact that Iraqi security forces were unwilling to stand up and fight those terrorists.
And I was back there in country, and I remember even before this campaign, Wolf, Iraqi forces on all levels said to me, "We don't have the confidence. We don't have the training. If U.S. forces leave, we're in trouble." And we're seeing it right now.
BLITZER: What did General Dempsey say to you, Kyra, about the threat from ISIS? And we know it's a huge threat to Iraq and Syria, elsewhere in the Middle East, but to the U.S. homeland?
PHILLIPS: That's a great question. He's very concerned about that. He said this could become an international brand. They're very active on social media. They're attracting the youth. There's the whole concern about self-radicalization. We've been talking a lot about that, Wolf, so he's very concerned that this could impact us here at home.
BLITZER: Good work, Kyra. I know we have more of this interview coming up later. Kyra, thanks very much.
We learned today from General Dempsey that the United States now has a name for the ISIS campaign. It's called Inherent Resolve. But does the U.S. like, he says, have a winning strategy? We're going to bring in retired U.S. Lieutenant General Mark Hertling in a moment, but look at this.
These are live pictures courtesy of KTVT in Dallas. These are live pictures. This is the ambulance that has brought the 29-year-old nurse, Amber Vinson, from that Dallas hospital to this private jet that is about to take her from Dallas to Atlanta to the Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, where there clearly is more sophisticated treatment for Ebola patients.
This has been something that's been in the works now ever since we learned early this morning that Amber Vinson is the second healthcare professional, the second nurse in Dallas to come down with Ebola, contracting Ebola from Thomas Eric Duncan. He's the -- he was the Liberian who came to the United States. He had Ebola. He died, unfortunately, last week at that Dallas Hospital.
Nina Pham, the 26-year-old nurse who contracted Ebola while trying to treat Mr. Duncan, she's still in that hospital in Dallas. She -- her condition is described as improving. Let's hope it does.
But apparently, they don't want to take any chances at all right now. So with Amber Vinson they're going to send her -- they're going to send her to Atlanta. There you see she's being removed. It looks like she's being removed on a stretcher there, and she's going to be put on that small plane, that jet to fly her from Dallas to Atlanta, where we all hope she will recover.
Other Ebola patients have recovered in Atlanta at the Emory University Hospital as well as University of Nebraska Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska.
But you see, she's not able on her own to make that little stretch from the ambulance to that jet, so she's being carried there on that gurney, and she's going to be put on there. We hope she's all right.
We know that she treated Mr. Duncan just as Nina Pham treated Mr. Duncan. She did wear protective equipment, protective gear, but unfortunately, it looks like it wasn't enough. She came down with initially a low-grade fever, but clearly, it has gone up.
So there's a serious problem there, and a lot of concern, because she came up with a slightly elevated fever as she was about to board a jet, a commercial airliner, Frontier Airlines on a flight from Cleveland back to Dallas. She left Dallas three days earlier, showed no symptoms at that time and had to go to Cleveland for some wedding planning. She went to Cleveland and just before boarding that return flight from Cleveland back to Dallas, she did show an elevated temperature of about 99.5.
The CDC says that's really not the threshold for being -- for allowing it to go forward, but there you see she's going forward on that plane right now. And you can see the protective -- except for that one individual who's right there, everybody else seems to have pretty good -- everybody else seems to have good protection, but one person over there didn't have any protection. But I guess he feels secure enough that she's on that plane and she's going to make that flight.
I think it's about a two-hour flight or so from Dallas to Atlanta. So she should be there not too long on this small jet, but it's obviously a dramatic development.
The president of the United States, by the way, has been meeting with his cabinet to come up with some plans, some operations to deal with the Ebola crisis in the United States. We're going to be hearing momentarily from the president.
Let's take a quick break. We'll resume our special coverage right after this.
BLITZER: Here is the president with his cabinet.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, obviously, the news has been dominated by the diagnosis of a second healthcare worker in Dallas with Ebola. And in light of this second case, I thought it was very important for me to bring together our team, including our CDC director, Tom Frieden, to hear directly from them in terms of how we're ramping up our efforts here.
Obviously, we want to express concern for the two health workers who have been affected. You know, our nurses and our healthcare workers are absolutely vital to the health and well-being of our families. They sacrifice for us all the time. Not just in this case, but in the case of other illnesses that affect us. They are selfless, they work hard and they're often underpaid and so our thoughts and prayers are with them and we have to make sure that we are doing everything we can to take care of them even as they take care of us.
As a consequence, what we've been doing here today is reviewing exactly what we know about what's happened in Dallas and how we're going to make sure that something like this is not repeated and that we are monitoring, supervising, overseeing in a much more aggressive way exactly what's taking place in Dallas initially in making sure that the lessons learned are then transmitted to hospitals and clinics all across the country.
First of all, what I've directed the CDC to do is that, as soon as someone is diagnosed with Ebola, we want a rapid response team, a SWAT Team essentially from the CDC to be on the ground as quickly as possible. Hopefully within 24 hours, so that they are taking the local hospital step by step through exactly what needs to be done and making sure that all of the protocols are properly observed, that the use of protective equipment is done effectively and that the disposal of the protective equipment is done properly.
The key thing to understand about this disease is that these protocols work. We know that because they've been used for decades now in Ebola cases around the world including the cases that were treated in Emory and in Nebraska. So if they're done properly, they work, but we have to make sure that, understandably, certain local hospitals that may not have that experience are walking -- walked through that process as carefully as possible and we're going to make sure that this rapid response team can do that.
In addition, we are reviewing every step of what's happened since Mr. Duncan was initially brought in to the hospital in Dallas so that we understand exactly where some of the problems may have occurred and doing a thorough canvas of inventory of all the workers who had contact with Mr. Duncan including those who engaged in some of the testing that took place.
We are now communicating all these various lessons to hospitals, clinics, first responders around the country and obviously, given all the attention that this has received we're going to make sure that that provision of information is constant, ongoing and being updated on a real-time basis.
In addition we are working very carefully with the mayor of Dallas, the governor of Texas, and others to make sure that in the event any other cases arise from these health workers that they are properly cared for in a way that is consistent with public safety.
I know that people are concerned about the fact that the second health care worker had traveled. Here's what we know about Ebola, that it is not like the flu. It is not airborne. The only way that a person can contract Ebola is by coming into direct contact with the bodily fluids of somebody who is showing symptoms. In other words, if they don't have symptoms, they're not contagious.
What we are able to do, however, is to do what's called contact tracing so that anybody who may have had contact with someone, even if it was incidental contact, even if they weren't showing symptoms, being able to identify who those individuals are and make sure that they are then being monitored in a way that allows us to make certain that the disease does not spread further and that's currently taking place in a very aggressive process conducted by the CDC, HHS and the rest of our teams.
I want to use myself as an example just so people have the sense of the science here.
I shook hands with, hugged and kissed -- not the doctors, but a couple of the nurses at Emory because of the valiant work that they did in treating one of the patients. They followed the protocols. They knew what they were doing and I felt perfectly safe doing so, and so this is not a situation in which, like a flu, the risks of a rapid spread of the disease are imminent.
If we do these protocols properly, if we follow the steps, if we get the information out then the likelihood of widespread Ebola outbreak in this country are very, very low, but I think what we've all learned over the last several weeks is that folks here in this country and a lot of non-specialized hospitals and clinics don't have that much experience dealing with these issues and so we're going to have to push out this information as aggressively as possible and that's the instructions that I've provided to my team.
Just a couple other points. We are going to be monitoring carefully the health status of the other health care workers in Dallas. And obviously, they're concerned. We understand that many of them are scared. And we are going to make sure that we're on the ground 24/7 to provide them the kind of support, information, and assurances that they need to get through this particular challenge.
And finally, we're also going to be continuing examining our screening processes in airports. We're making sure that in the event that we have additional cases that involve the need for transporting those patients to these specialized hospitals, that those teams are in place and those facilities are in place, and we will make sure that on a day-to-day basis, we provide the public with all the information they need and all the updates about what has happened, not just in Dallas but what is being done across the country.
I'll end with this point. We are going to have to make sure that we do not lose sight of the importance of the international response to what is taking place and what's happened. I am absolutely confident that we can prevent a serious outbreak of the disease here in the United States. But it becomes more difficult to do so if this epidemic of Ebola rages out of control in West Africa.
If it does, then it will spread globally. In an age of frequent travel and the kind of constant interactions that people have across borders. And so it is very important for us to understand that the investment we make in helping Liberia, Sierra Leone, and getting to deal with this problem is an investment in our own public health.
This is not simply charity, although obviously it's important that America takes the lead in the humanitarian crisis that's taking place there. But it is also probably the single most important thing that we can do to prevent a more serious Ebola outbreak in this country is making sure that we get what is a raging epidemic right now in West Africa under control. So for that reason, last night I had a call with Prime Minister Abe of
Japan to solicit greater support for the international community. This morning I spoke with Chancellor Merkel with Germany, Prime Minister Renzi of Italy, President Hollande of France as well as David Cameron, the prime minister of Great Britain, to make sure that we are coordinating our efforts and that we are putting in a lot more resources than so far at least, the international community has put into this process.
So bottom line in terms of the public, I want people to understand that the dangers of you contracting Ebola, the dangers of a serious outbreak are extraordinarily low. But we are taking this very seriously at the highest levels of government. And we are going to be able to manage this particular situation.
But we have to look towards the future, and if we are not responding internationally in an effective way, and if we do not set up the kind of preparedness and training in our public health infrastructure here in the United States -- not just for this outbreak but for future outbreaks then we could have problems.
So in the meantime, I want everybody to be thinking about and praying for the two health workers that have gotten sick. Those who also treated this patient with compassion and care, we just want to say thank you to them. And we are going to be doing everything we can to make sure that they're properly cared for. OK?
Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you very much.
BLITZER: All right. So there's the president of the United States in the cabinet room, meeting with his cabinet on the Ebola crisis.
Like all of us, wishing Amber Vincent, the 29-year-old nurse who has contracted Ebola, Nina Pham, the 26-year-old nurse in Dallas, also contracted Ebola from the Liberian man, Thomas Eric Duncan, who unfortunately past away last week. Wishing them a complete recovery.
Let's hope that happens.
Amber Vincent, by the way, she's about to be flown -- you see that small jet. That's about to take off, take Amber Vincent from Dallas to Atlanta, Georgia, where she'll be admitted to Emory University Hospital for specialized treatment. Two other Ebola patients were admitted to Emory University Hospital and they're fine right there.
So that's the latest on that development. She should be landing in Atlanta in a couple of hours. We saw her being carried onto that small jet just a little while ago.
The president, by the way, canceled trips to Connecticut and New Jersey to meet in emergency session with his cabinet to deal with this crisis.
We're going to have a lot more coming up on the Ebola crisis. The new Ebola patient. Was -- why was she flying with a fever just hours before she reported symptoms? There you see her, Amber Vincent. Also, you've been watching CNN journalist explore their roots. Coming
up, my own very emotional, very personal journey to trace my family's history. It takes me back to Holland.
We'll go to Israel, we'll go to Buffalo, New York. An emotional journey. That's coming up in the next hour.