With a wide net being cast by Congressmen to enforce a travel ban for citizens of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone from entering the United States, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are on edge.
Although President Obama stated that the dangers of a serious outbreak are extraordinarily low, as risk and confirmed cases of the Ebola virus increase within the United States, Congress is trying to find ways to dramatically reduce or prevent future issues, with a travel ban being at the top of the list.
However, banning people from entering the US raises serious red flags for officials with the CDC. As of yet, the Obama Administration has opposed a travel ban for people from African countries where the Ebola virus is running rampant but some Republican lawmakers believe the reason has to do with concerns over hurting those countries’ economies.
Congressman Tim Murphy feels the concern is that these are new democracies and as such, a travel ban could have a significant impact on the economy. He added that public health policies might be based on a concern over cutting commercial ties with these democracies opposed to protecting the health of the American people.
As a supporter of a travel ban, Murphy said there is no reason to leave the door open to all travel into and out of Western African hot zones, emphasizing the Ebola virus is a dangerous and unwanted stowaway.
In comparison, Tom Frieden, Director of the CDC believes a travel ban would seriously affect the economy of West Africa, which appears to conflict with Murphy and other top health officials. The CDC has repeatedly said that halting flights would hurt the flow of personnel, as well as medical supplies going into that region, thereby putting the African people at even greater risk.
When pressed on calls for a travel ban, Frieden stated that if things are done to make the Ebola epidemic harder to stop, the disease will spread. He was then asked about charter flights taking over the delivery of needed medical supplies to which he responded that what charters do is much different from commercial airliners.
However, in hearing Friedman’s statement, Murphy claimed that supply flights could still get into and out of Ebola hot zones even if a travel ban is imposed. From an economic standpoint, Murphy believes that a lot of support can be provided to these ravaged nations and added that the US is providing that support to both government and nongovernment organizations but he still does not understand how stopping flights would be a problem.
One of the greatest concerns has to do with currently handling of Ebola patients in the US. The case of Thomas Eric Duncan was handled completely wrong. Duncan had flown to the US from Liberia and after showing symptoms of being infected he went to the hospital only to be turned away. He returned a few days later, after coming in contact with multiple people, where he died.
Duncan became the first patient in the US to die from the Ebola virus and people who support the continuance of flights from West African countries feel it is not so much flights causing the problem but the handling of the virus once confirmed.
According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, his agency is actively participating in trying to treat and prevent Ebola. Research is being expedited while at the same time, high safety and efficacy standards are enforced.