President Obama Convenes Emergency Ebola Meeting at White House

PHOTO: President Barack Obama, next to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, speaks to the media about Ebola during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Oct. 15, 2014. PlayJacquelyn Martin/AP Photo
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The United States must monitor Ebola in a "much more aggressive way," President Obama said today, also noting that he has directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to send a rapid response team -- which he described as a medical "SWAT team" -- within 24 hours when someone is diagnosed.

The president vigorously defended of the protocols and overall approach to prevent Ebola from spreading, noting they have been used for decades: "These protocols work."

"If we do these protocols properly .. the likelihood of widespread Ebola outbreaks in this country are very, very low," he added.

His remarks came after meeting with top health officials at the White House to get an update in person on the increasing number of Ebola cases in America.

PHOTO: Belkys Fortune, left, and Teressa Celia, pose in protective suits in an isolation room during a demonstration of procedures for possible Ebola patients at Bellevue Hospital, New York, Oct. 8, 2014.Richard Drew/AP Photo
Belkys Fortune, left, and Teressa Celia, pose in protective suits in an isolation room during a demonstration of procedures for possible Ebola patients at Bellevue Hospital, New York, Oct. 8, 2014.

The meeting was an effort to coordinate the federal government's response, featuring representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense, the White House said in a statement released earlier today.

Even though the dangers of contracting Ebola remains extremely low in the general public, Obama said "we are taking this very seriously at the highest levels of government."

The president postponed a campaign trip to New Jersey and Connecticut to hold an emergency meeting on the situation this afternoon, and press secretary Josh Earnest said at an afternoon press briefing that the change of plans "indicates the seriousness of this situation." The president also cancelled trips scheduled for Thursday.

The second health care worker at a Dallas hospital was diagnosed with the virus this morning after treating an infected patient from West Africa who later died.

"What you are seeing from the federal government now is the kind of tenacious response that reflects evolving circumstances," Earnest said.

There would be no so-called "Ebola Czar" tasked with handling the situation, Earnest said, explaining instead that "there are individuals who are directly responsible for their line of responsibility," which he described as "a completely reasonable management structure."

Obama was scheduled to attend a Democratic fundraiser in New Jersey today, then continue to Bridgeport, Conn., for his first public campaign rally of the season, an appearance with Gov. Dan Malloy. Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is on an economic development trip in Europe, announced today that he was cancelling his remaining stops in order to return to Texas to deal with the developing situation.

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