December 12, 2017
Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ebola: US Republican lawmakers urge White House to ban travel from West Africa

US Republican Representative from Texas Michael Burgess shows a picture while asking a question about protective gear.
Congressional lawmakers have criticized the government's response to Ebola in the United States as some called, at a congressional hearing probing efforts to contain the virus, for a ban on travel from epidemic-stricken West Africa.

Federal Aviation Administration chief Michael Huerta told reporters separately that the United States is assessing whether to issue a travel ban "on a day-to-day basis" but that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had determined that a ban would not address the challenges posed by Ebola.

The congressional hearing comes as concerns about the virus in the United States are accelerating. Several schools in Ohio and Texas were closed after concerns that a nurse with Ebola traveled on a plane with people with ties to the schools.

The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) said it would take over the care of the first Texas nurse diagnosed with Ebola, Nina Pham, who contracted the virus while treating a man from Liberia who later died.

Lawmakers focused questions and pointed criticism at the hearing on CDC chief Dr. Thomas Frieden.

"The administration did not act fast enough in responding in Texas," Democratic Representative Bruce Braley of Iowa told the hearing. "We need to look at all the options available to keep our families safe and move quickly and responsibly to make any necessary changes at airports."

Several Republicans said flights from West Africa, where the virus is widespread, should be stopped.

Ebola has killed nearly 4,500 people in West Africa, predominantly in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, since March. The virus is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person.

"I predict you're going to put on or the president's going to put on travel restrictions," Republican Representative Billy Long of Missouri told Frieden during the hearing. "I don't know if it's going to be today or tomorrow or two weeks or a month from now. But I think that they're coming, and I think sooner rather than later."

Frieden argued, as he has before, that closing US borders would not work and would leave the country less able to track people with Ebola entering. Moreover, cutting flights to Africa would hit the US ability to stop the virus at its source, he said.

Frieden said he has spoken to the White House about the issue of dealing with people traveling with Ebola. Asked if the White House had ruled out a travel ban, the CDC chief did not answer directly, saying, "I can't speak for the White House."

Ebola spreads to last healthy district in Sierra Leone

Ebola has killed at least two people in what was the last remaining district in Sierra Leone unaffected by the virus, a government health officer has said.

Sierra Leone is one of three West African nations at the epicentre of the worst outbreak of the disease on record which has killed close to 4,500 people since first appearing in the Guinean forest last December.

As Ebola spread across the rest of Sierra Leone, locals in the far northern Koinadugu district had tried to block movement in and out of the area to stop anyone bringing in the haemorrhagic fever.

However, disease surveillance officer Abdul K. Sesay said two of six samples taken from the village of Fankoya, where suspicious deaths had been recorded, tested positive yesterday.
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Tags:  US  Republican  lawmakers  Ebola  response  travel ban  

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