Mayor Mike Rawlings received support from President Barack Obama Thursday afternoon, as the city's leader grapples with the health, safety and public perception issues surrounding the presence of the Ebola virus in Dallas.
"The Ebola virus took us by surprise,"Rawlings told the Dallas business community at the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce's Mayor's Breakfast Friday morning. "People had been trained in this, but when it's real you sit up and it's game time; it's a little bit of a different situation."
Rawlings said Patient Zero — a man visiting from Liberia in East Dallas — is being treated at Texas Presbyterian Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas and was last listed as in serious, but stable condition.
"Presbyterian is going a good job making sure he gets all the medical aid that he needs," Rawlings told the audience. "Their workers have been tireless in this and have put themselves in the line of this disease and for that we should be very grateful."
In conjunction with the hospital, Dallas has isolated "significantly less" than 100 people from the hospital and the neighborhood that were in contact with the patient.
"We are talking about 25 individuals from the neighborhood and they were in concentric circles as far as contact," Rawlings said, adding the people with the most contact are being isolated in their homes.
"They cannot infect people right now, they are showing no signs of this disease," he added. "If you show no signs, you cannot infect anybody. That's the science. But at any moment they could show signs and we want to be there the moment someone's fever spikes or if they start getting nauseous."
Communicating the details of the Ebola virus case has been difficult as new developments occur, said Rawlings, who spoke with CNN Thursday evening to discuss reports that "fear is rampant" in Dallas.
"I made it a point that I thought it was a totally false report, all the people that I've spoken to — and please let me know if I'm misunderstanding this — that there's anxiety out there and nobody wants this, but this is a breakfast and look how full the room is," Rawlings said, pointing at more than 100 business executives and professionals in the room.
"There's not rampant fear in Dallas," he added.
Rawlings received a call from President Obama through Air Force One's communications team on Thursday afternoon. Obama has promised the mayor any support he may need from the nation.
About 20 minutes later, Texas Gov. Rick Perry called Rawlings with the same message of support.
"The country and the state are doing anything they can to support us," Rawlings said. "We have about 150 people on top of this working as hard as they can."
No one else has shown signs or symptoms of the Ebola virus beyond Patient Zero, butRawlings said Dallas officials are closely monitoring the isolated individuals.