Former President Bill Clinton said at a United Nations event Thursday that he underwent Ebola screening from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after a recent visit to Liberia, but that he was never exposed to the deadly virus.
“This morning, I’m officially Ebola-free,” Clinton told the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council Partnership Forum during a speech that focused on using partnerships to combat global issues like Ebola, poverty and education.
Through his family’s foundation, Clinton and a delegation of Clinton Foundation donors traveled to Tanzania, Kenya, Liberia and Morocco during a nine-day Africa trip earlier this month.
After returning to the United States, Clinton told the American Institute of Architects during a keynote address that he was taking his temperature everyday, as required by the CDC.
“Our foundation just took its annual trip to Africa,” he said. “My daughter and I took off for a day and went to Liberia, right before they were declared Ebola-free. I still have to take my temperature twice a day. So far I can’t even get to 98.6.”
An Ebola outbreak ravaged Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone last year, infecting 24,000 people and killing 10,000, according to one official count. In May, the World Health Organization declared the Ebola breakout in Liberia was over after the virus claimed 4,000 lives.
In response to the outbreak, the CDC stepped up screening and monitoring systems in an effort to control the spread of the outbreak. This included tracking and screening everyone who visited the country before it was declared Ebola-free.
“For 21 days, after leaving one of these West African countries, all travelers are asked to take their temperature two times a day and watch for Ebola symptoms,” CDC guidelines said. In addition, the returning travelers were “actively monitored by the state or local health department,” meaning a public health worker checked in with them once a day for three weeks.
On Thursday, Clinton implored U.N. diplomats to invest more in building health systems in countries like Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and called the Ebola outbreak a “man-made disaster” that requires a mix of partnerships and government planning to address.
“The things we take for granted which are not present elsewhere, are the things I believe we should focus our partnerships on,” he said. “There is no better place to prove the point than in the Ebola-affected countries. There is no better place to spend the money.”
The key, Clinton said, was access to medical professionals, an issue that compounded problems in Ebola-affected countries. He told the assembled delegates that in some countries, the number of doctors per person was equivalent to Manhattan – with its 1.6 million people – being served by 23 doctors.
“The older I get,” he said, “the more I am convinced that I use 23 doctors in Manhattan.”