Ban flights from Ebola-affected countries: Epidemiologist

David Dausey, the dean of the School of Health Professions and Public Health at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pennsylvania and an expert at controlling pandemics says it's time to ban flights from countries where Ebola is out of control.

Dausey penned an op-ed in the Washington Post to make his case:

Individuals who suspect they have been exposed to Ebola and have the means to travel to the United States have every reason to get on a plane to the United States as soon as possible. There are no direct flights from the three most-affected nations, but passengers can transfer elsewhere, as Duncan did. If they stay in Africa, the probability that they will survive the illness if they have it is quite low. If they make it to the United States, they can expect to receive the best medical care the world can provide, and they will have a much higher probability of survival. So they are motivated to lie about their exposure status (wouldn’t you, in their shoes?) to airlines and public health officials and travel to the United States. *

The incubation period for Ebola is up to 21 days, so a person could get on a plane the day he or she is exposed and spend three weeks in the United States or elsewhere before exhibiting symptoms. Then he or she could potentially infect any number of people here before the disease is properly diagnosed, and they are isolated or quarantined. *

Top U.S. government health officials have spoken strongly against creating a travel ban (though members of Congress increasingly disagree). They say restricting flights will also restrict aid to affected countries and will increase the amount of ongoing unrest. But commercial airlines are not the only ways for the United States to send aid and aid workers. The United States has the most advanced military in the entire world; we can transport people and supplies without commercial carriers.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been compared to a war zone. The disease is now being viewed as a national security threat on par with nuclear weapons. The United States has committed nearly 4,000 troops to impacted countries. It’s time to take security precautions that align with the gravity of the threat. That means doing whatever it takes to keep infected people from coming here.

The White House insistence that stopping flights to the west from Ebola affected countries would make the situation worse has little basis in reality and, in fact, is illogical. And administration critics who are pushing the idea of a ban are not spreading "panic." That's nonsense. The proposal is reasonable, rational, and makes sense - hardly the stuff of "fear mongering."

I suspect resisting a travel ban has more to do with economics than public health. Isolating those countries who already have weak economies, could destroy what little economic activity goes on. A few countries defaulting on their debt might set off another financial meltdown in the west - something politicians wish to avoid.

In the end, let's hope that decision to continue to allow people from affected countries into the US doesn't come back to haunt us.

David Dausey, the dean of the School of Health Professions and Public Health at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pennsylvania and an expert at controlling pandemics says it's time to ban flights from countries where Ebola is out of control.

Dausey penned an op-ed in the Washington Post to make his case:

Individuals who suspect they have been exposed to Ebola and have the means to travel to the United States have every reason to get on a plane to the United States as soon as possible. There are no direct flights from the three most-affected nations, but passengers can transfer elsewhere, as Duncan did. If they stay in Africa, the probability that they will survive the illness if they have it is quite low. If they make it to the United States, they can expect to receive the best medical care the world can provide, and they will have a much higher probability of survival. So they are motivated to lie about their exposure status (wouldn’t you, in their shoes?) to airlines and public health officials and travel to the United States. *

The incubation period for Ebola is up to 21 days, so a person could get on a plane the day he or she is exposed and spend three weeks in the United States or elsewhere before exhibiting symptoms. Then he or she could potentially infect any number of people here before the disease is properly diagnosed, and they are isolated or quarantined. *

Top U.S. government health officials have spoken strongly against creating a travel ban (though members of Congress increasingly disagree). They say restricting flights will also restrict aid to affected countries and will increase the amount of ongoing unrest. But commercial airlines are not the only ways for the United States to send aid and aid workers. The United States has the most advanced military in the entire world; we can transport people and supplies without commercial carriers.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been compared to a war zone. The disease is now being viewed as a national security threat on par with nuclear weapons. The United States has committed nearly 4,000 troops to impacted countries. It’s time to take security precautions that align with the gravity of the threat. That means doing whatever it takes to keep infected people from coming here.

The White House insistence that stopping flights to the west from Ebola affected countries would make the situation worse has little basis in reality and, in fact, is illogical. And administration critics who are pushing the idea of a ban are not spreading "panic." That's nonsense. The proposal is reasonable, rational, and makes sense - hardly the stuff of "fear mongering."

I suspect resisting a travel ban has more to do with economics than public health. Isolating those countries who already have weak economies, could destroy what little economic activity goes on. A few countries defaulting on their debt might set off another financial meltdown in the west - something politicians wish to avoid.

In the end, let's hope that decision to continue to allow people from affected countries into the US doesn't come back to haunt us.