The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is against it, but that’s not stopping U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross from introducing legislation that would curb flights from countries with outbreaks of the Ebola virus.
Ross introduced his bill Wednesday known as the Contain Ebola and Stop the Epidemic — or CEASE — Act of 2014, which would prohibit certain flights from landing in the United States, and to prohibit the country from issuing visas to those areas.
“Now that the United States is free of the Ebola virus disease, we must begin implementing a process that will keep our country safe from a potential future outbreak,” Ross, R-Lakeland, said in a release. “Craig Spencer, a doctor who helped treat Ebola patients in West Africa, returned home to New York to find he had become sick with the virus.”
Spencer was successfully treated for Ebola. However, Ross said he was concerned about a statement from Ron Klain, the Ebola czar appointed by President Obama, who said that the United States could see “occasional additional cases of Ebola in our country.”
“Klain’s statement does not provide my constituents and I comfort,” Ross said.
By banning flights and visas with countries where Ebola has become an epidemic, he added, it would reduce the threat of an outbreak in the United States. However, CDC officials have said that while people should always be vigilant against deadly diseases, Ebola is one that has almost no chance of ever becoming an epidemic in the United States.
To date, only one person has died from Ebola in the United States, creating a death rate in the country of 1-in-300 million.
Dr. Thomas Frieden, the head of the CDC, wrote in an opinion piece last month that turning back planes from countries with Ebola problems would only worsen the situation here at home.
“When a wildfire breaks out, we don’t fence it off,” Frieden wrote. “We go in to extinguish it before one of the random sparks sets off another outbreak somewhere else. We don’t want to isolate part of the world, or people who aren’t sick, because that’s going to drive patients with Ebola underground, making it infinitely more difficult to address the outbreak.”
Frieden also noted that all outbound passengers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are screened for Ebola symptoms before they board an airplane. Unlike other communicable diseases, Ebola can only be spread once someone is symptomatic, and even then it has to be through direct conflict, like body fluids. It’s can be spread through casual contact like the flu can, nor is it airborne in that way.
Ross’ bill would stop commercial flights that originated or stopped in Ebola-affected countries from landing in the United States. It would also prohibit federal officials from issuing immigrant or non-immigrant visas to anyone whose travel originates in or includes a foreign country where there is an Ebola problem.
The travel and visa ban would continue until a country is “no longer experiencing epidemic levels of the Ebola virus disease.”
“Ebola is still devastating areas of Africa, especially in both Guinea and Sierra Leone, which is why we must keep our guard up,” Ross said, in defense of his bill. “Until the CDC can ascertain that Ebola has been contained and eradicated overseas, we must be vigilant in keeping Americans safe by being proactive instead of reactive.”