Weekly Wrap: Call for Ebola Travel Ban Grows

hospitalWith the passing of the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., a popular call for a ban on travel from countries affected by the outbreak has gained ground. 

According to a new survey by NBC, a majority of Americans favor a ban on travel from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa, including Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. 58 percent supported the ban, with 20 percent opposed and the rest undecided. 

Earlier in the week officials in the Obama administration had announced their opposition to a travel ban, arguing that such a ban could make the outbreak worse by inhibiting efforts to stop the outbreak in West Africa. 

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"You isolate them, you can cause unrest in the country," Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health told "Fox News Sunday." ''It's conceivable that governments could fall if you just isolate them completely."

A breakdown in civil government in hard-hit countries would make it more difficult for aid workers to implement strategies to contain the virus. 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have announced stricter entry screening procedures for travelers from the affected countries. The new procedures will go into effect at New York JFK on Saturday, and at Washington-Dulles, Newark, Chicago-O’Hare and Atlanta international airports over the following week. 

After passport review, the new screening process is as follows:

  • Travelers from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone will be escorted by CBP to an area of the airport set aside for screening.
  • Trained CBP staff will observe them for signs of illness, ask them a series of health and exposure questions and provide health information for Ebola and reminders to monitor themselves for symptoms. Trained medical staff will take their temperature with a non-contact thermometer.
  • If the travelers have fever, symptoms or the health questionnaire reveals possible Ebola exposure, they will be evaluated by a CDC quarantine station public health officer. The public health officer will again take a temperature reading and make a public health assessment. Travelers, who after this assessment, are determined to require further evaluation or monitoring will be referred to the appropriate public health authority.
  • Travelers from these countries who have neither symptoms/fever nor a known history of exposure will receive health information for self-monitoring.

During the onset of the outbreak in late August, the World Health Organization (WHO) had classified air travel from affected countries as “low-risk.”

According to the WHO’s latest statement on the transmission of Ebola, the virust is only transmitted via close and direct physical contact with infected bodily fluids, the most infectious being blood, faeces and vomit. 

The virus is not airborne, and the WHO does not expect it to dramatically alter its mode of transmission by becoming so. 

“Moreover, scientists are unaware of any virus that has dramatically changed its mode of transmission. For example, the H5N1 avian influenza virus, which has caused sporadic human cases since 1997, is now endemic in chickens and ducks in large parts of Asia,” the WHO said in a statement on its website. “That virus has probably circulated through many billions of birds for at least two decades. Its mode of transmission remains basically unchanged.”

Cruise Cancellations

This week, cruise lines began to modify their itineraries in response to the outbreak. 

In all, Holland America Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Seabourn Cruise Line have announced modified itineraries. While none of the affected ports were in the hardest-hit nations of Liberia, Guinea and Sierre Leone, ports in bordering nations, such as Senegal and Gambia

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