Many health and transportation officials are calling for stricter quarantine practices in response to the growing threat of the deadly Ebola virus being carried in by travelers from West Africa, but in 2010 the Obama Administration scrapped a set of regulations that might have prevented the disease from entering the U.S.
Bush administration proposals in response to the avian flu crisis in 2005 would have granted the federal government the power to detain sick airline passengers, USA Today reported in 2010.
The regulations also would have required airlines to report sick passengers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and mandated that airlines collect passenger contact information in case flyers needed to be tracked down as part of an outbreak investigation.
Airline and civil liberties groups that objected to harsh regulations on airlines and breaches in passenger privacy rights praised the administration’s decision to scrap the new rules.
“We think that the CDC was right to withdraw the proposed rule,” Air Transport Association spokeswoman Elizabeth Merida told USA Today in 2010.
“The fact that they’re backing away form this very coercive style of quarantine is good news,” said American Civil Liberties Union legislative counsel Christopher Calabrese, the paper reported.
But CDC officials said that the rules would only be used in rare circumstances in cases where a passenger posed a health threat and refused to cooperate with officials.
Now the threat of Ebola has prompted lawmakers and transportation officials to call for travel bans on flights coming in from West African countries stricken by the disease.
“We should stop accepting flights from countries that are Ebola stricken,” Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal said in a statement Friday. “Even countries in Africa have cut back on or stopped accepting flights from countries with Ebola outbreaks.”
Earlier this week former Inspector General for The Department of Transportation Mary Schiavo also called for a travel ban during an interview with CNN, citing difficulties disinfecting aircraft carrying sick passengers.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Friday the administration is not currently seeking a travel ban but instead relying on safety procedures that are already in place.
Counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco said during a White House press briefing that the administration is focused on controlling the epidemic at its source and preventing anyone who is infected from leaving West Africa.