CRF Blog

The American Argument Against an African Travel Ban

by Bill Hayes

In The American Argument Against an African Travel Ban for Bloomberg Businessweek, Charles Kenny argues against banning travel from western Africa.

We don’t have a vaccine against Ebola nor a fully developed cure. But like the plague, the disease is an unlikely candidate for epidemic status in the U.S. or elsewhere in the developed world. The only way to contract Ebola is for the bodily fluids of someone who’s exhibiting symptoms to come into contact with your soft tissues — the eyes or mouth, for example. In the worst of circumstances, the average Ebola victim infects one or two other people, compared with 10 or more who can be infected by someone with measles.

Isolation of people with symptoms, rather than quarantine of an entire population, can stop an epidemic. That’s why all previous Ebola outbreaks have sputtered, leaving the world with no reported cases in 2010, for example. The U.S. has top-notch isolation facilities, and health authorities have considerable experience of “contact tracing,” or finding all the people a victim has spent time with since he began exhibiting symptoms and checking that they don’t have the disease. [more]