Top government health officials said Sunday that they are opposed to placing a ban on travelers from Ebola-infected countries, warning that shutting down borders could impede efforts by aid workers to stop the spread of the deadly virus. The idea of a ban gained currency this past week after the nation's first case was diagnosed in Dallas. Proponents have argued that it would help ensure public safety.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, said a travel embargo on West African countries that are struggling with Ebola would make it much harder for them to control the virus.
"You isolate them, you can cause unrest in the country," Fauci told "Fox News Sunday." "It's conceivable that governments could fall if you just isolate them completely."
British Airways and some other airlines have suspended flights from those countries, and overall traffic to and from the affected areas has dropped. Rep.
Tim Murphy plans to conduct hearings on the policy this coming week. He leads the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Asking travelers to report their own activities at airports "has been a demonstrated failure, and it is nearly impossible to retrace steps to try and track down everyone who has been in contact with a carrier taking multiple international flights across the globe," Murphy, a Pennsylvania Republican, said Friday.
U.S. officials have emphasized that the United States has a modern medical system that is far better equipped to contain an outbreak than the African countries where Ebola is currently spreading.
Airline passengers have their temperatures taken as they board planes in the outbreak zone, although those infected with Ebola can go up to 21 days before they exhibit symptoms. Passengers are also asked about contact with infected people, but that process would not be useful if a passenger lies or simply does not realize the medical condition of people they have encountered.
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- The Associated Press