A Temporary Travel Ban Can Help Combat Ebola

Last week, the American people learned that two nurses who had treated the United States’ index Ebola patient also had contracted the virus, and more worrisome, learned that one of the nurses had traveled on a commercial airliner. It understandably heightened concern more Americans were at risk of contracting this extremely deadly virus, and it caused many folks to be concerned that the government’s response to the virus had been inadequate.

The American people want to have confidence that their government is doing everything in its power to contain the virus and prevent its spread. Since learning about the new exposures, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has put into place new travel measures for travelers who have been in the countries affected by the disease, and has also notified every passenger on the flight on which the ill patient traveled. But I believe one more restriction is needed – we need the Administration to take another look at putting in place workable travel restrictions from the affected countries in an effort to keep the virus contained at the source of the outbreak.

On Tuesday, I led 15 other members of the GOP Doctors Caucus in sending a letter to President Obama encouraging him to reconsider a temporary travel ban on countries that have been heavily affected by Ebola. As a physician, I understand we have a responsibility to support countries suffering because of Ebola with continued flow of aid workers and supplies to help control the spread of the disease. With that said, a temporary travel ban for individuals who are citizens of, or traveled to, affected countries in West Africa would help contain the disease. For American citizens exposed to Ebola, we recommended the administration consider a 21-day quarantine before allowing reentry to the United States.

Additionally, last week the president announced the addition of an “Ebola czar” to oversee the government’s response and ensure that all agencies are coordinating their efforts. While I believe the creation of this position was necessary, I think the president erred and missed an opportunity to reassure Americans by selecting Mr. Klain, Vice President Joe Biden’s former chief of staff , instead of someone who had public health experience. The president’s selection of a political operative will lead too many to believe our response is being driven by politics as well.

I have been in touch with both the Tennessee Hospital Association and the Tennessee Department of Health. Both have reassured Tennessee’s congressional delegation that hospitals across the state are ready should Ebola present itself. We have some of the best and brightest medical professionals in the world, and I am confident that the health and safety of patients and their medical teams are their highest priority.

Educating citizens and health professionals on Ebola is important to protecting American lives both at home and abroad. It’s extremely important for the public to realize the risk of a widespread outbreak in the United States is very low. Ebola is a scary disease, but there’s no cause for panic at this time. As I’ve said before, the United States has the resources and infrastructure to contain this disease should a more widespread outbreak ever occur, and we are one of the most well-prepared countries in the industrialized world to adequately handle a disease like Ebola.

As a physician, I will continue to closely follow developments in America’s response to Ebola, and I look forward to working with the administration and public health officials to minimize the impact of this disease at home and around the world. 

Feel free to contact my office if we can be of assistance to you or your family. Our contact information can be found on our website, www.roe.house.gov.

Source: Communication from U.S. Congressman Phil Roe, M.D., 1st District of Tennessee

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