POLITICS
10/13/2014 11:35 pm ET Updated Oct 14, 2014

GOP Congresswoman: Don't Let Anyone Into U.S. From West Africa 'Until Things Settle Down'

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) says the United States shouldn't allow anyone into the country who has been in the West African region facing an Ebola outbreak.

"I do believe that we should cease to allow people who have been in the three countries in West Africa, we should not allow them to come into the country until things settle down," Lummis said during a Monday night debate.

Public health experts have warned against the kind of approach advocated by Lummis. Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has explained why a travel ban would be a dangerous and ineffective response:

Importantly, isolating countries won’t keep Ebola contained and away from American shores. Paradoxically, it will increase the risk that Ebola will spread in those countries and to other countries, and that we will have more patients who develop Ebola in the U.S. People will move between countries, even when governments restrict travel and trade. And that kind of travel becomes almost impossible to track.

In other words, people would still find a way into the U.S. despite a travel ban, except health officials wouldn't know where they were -- which would lead to the disease spreading more rapidly. The best way to stem the Ebola outbreak, said Frieden, is to go to the source and isolate those who have been infected -- the same strategy that worked on SARS and during the H1N1 flu pandemic.

A travel ban would "only provide an illusion of security and would lead to prejudice and stigma around those in West Africa," Frieden said.

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