- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 19, 2014

More than two dozen countries in Africa, the Caribbean and elsewhere have instituted Ebola-related travel bans, but public health officials continued to insist Sunday that entry restrictions would do little to help prevent an outbreak on U.S. soil.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, maintained that a travel ban would have “downsides” as he made the rounds on the Sunday talk shows.

“The strongest argument against it is that when people are coming into the country, you know exactly [and] you can track them,” Dr. Fauci said on Fox News Sunday. “If you say, ‘Nobody comes in from Sierra Leone, Liberia or Guinea,’ there are so many other ways to get into the country. You can go to one of the other countries and then get back in. So when they come in from a place where you know you can track them, you know [where they are].”

Rep. Tim Murphy, the Pennsylvania Republican who helped lead an oversight hearing Thursday on the Ebola outbreak, argued that a travel restriction was needed to “protect and defend the people of the United States.”

“The president has sealed off Israel in the past. We’ve sealed off other areas temporarily. We can have travel restrictions until we get the rest right, and the rest is not right,” Mr. Murphy said on Fox News Sunday. “Assumptions that they have — for example, that it will lead to the collapse of the economy in Africa — I don’t agree with.”



The International SOS website reports that 28 countries have implemented entry restrictions on those with visas from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone — and, in some cases, Nigeria. Most of the travel bans are within Africa, but other countries with restrictions include several Caribbean nations, including Jamaica, as well as Belize and Guyana.

The Ivory Coast has closed its land borders but recently lifted its prohibition on passenger flights from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to International SOS.

Dr. Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health said a travel ban would “seriously impact our ability to get people in and out of that area.”

“If you’re prepared today to give us hundreds of military planes that will fly in and out at will when we need them to move not only material but people, then I’ll say, ‘Maybe we ought to reconsider this,’” said Dr. Osterholm. “But I don’t see anyone in Congress telling us today that we’re going to get hundreds of military planes.”

Mr. Murphy, a member of the Republican Doctors Caucus, said he and other lawmakers have urged the Obama administration to provide Congress with an authorization request for any additional support.

“I’ve already asked Dr. [Tom] Frieden, and I’ve sent a letter to President Obama saying, ‘Tell us what Congress needs to authorize.’ We’re sending thousands of troops over there through ships [and] planes,” Mr. Murphy said. “We could do a lot here. The ability of the U.S. military to move goods and supplies is pretty massive. We all want to stop Ebola in Africa, but we also don’t want it to come here.”

A number of lawmakers have called for a halt on travel from those coming from Ebola-plagued West African nations, but Mr. Obama said Saturday that such a ban “could actually make the situation worse.”

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