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Obama Says It 'May Be Appropriate' To Appoint Ebola Czar

For the second night in a row, President Obama addressed the American public after meeting with his cabinet about Ebola.

Obama assured Americans that their federal government is taking "this very seriously at the highest level, including me."

"What remains true is this is not an airborne disease," Obama said. "It is not easy to catch. It's important to keep perspective in terms of how we handle this."

Obama spoke hours after lawmakers hammered the chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Capitol Hill over the agency's handling of the first Ebola case diagnosed in the United States. Lawmakers questioned Dr. Thomas Frieden and other health officials over how and why two nurses caring for index patient Thomas Eric Duncan had contracted the disease.

Daniel Varga, a top official from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where Duncan was treated by both nurses, conceded, "We made mistakes."

Obama, however, said that if the U.S. continues to take the steps it has been taking the disease "will be contained" in the United States.

Some lawmakers called for a travel ban on countries experiencing Ebola outbreaks. Obama dismissed those suggestions, saying they would be counterproductive.

The president did leave room for the appointment of a so-called "Ebola czar," or a White House official tasked with keeping the response to the disease on track.

Obama said appointing a czar "may be appropriate."

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.