CDC Chief Dr. Frieden appeared on Fox and Friends this morning (10/3) and repeated his argument that there should be no travel ban from West African countries with active Ebola outbreaks since it would prevent efforts to control the epidemic by allowing travel into those countries. However, there is a perfectly rational way to create a travel ban FROM the Ebola infected areas while allowing travel by essential personnel there to attempt to control the outbreak.
Dr. Frieden surely recognizes the importance of a travel ban FROM an infected population since he is supporting the most specific ban there can be: state-ordered isolation of family members of the infected Ebola patient in Dallas. Dr. Frieden demonstrated the need to isolate contacts in Dallas but seems to contradict that position by not isolating travel from countries where it is running rampant. Here is Dr. Frieden in his own words.
“We are stopping Ebola in its tracks in this country,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in the release. “We can do that because of two things: strong infection control that stops the spread of Ebola in health care; and strong core public health functions to trace contacts, track contacts, isolate them if they have any symptoms and stop the chain of transmission. I am certain we will control this.”
So to be clear, Dr. Frieden clearly agrees that isolating potentially infected people is a key part of stopping Ebola outbreaks in America. In fact, as a former member of multiple domestic preparedness committees for over six years, this author knows that the ultimate isolation of a city in an outbreak would be a “Cordon Sanitare”. If a major American city had an epidemic of an infectious disease like Smallpox (or Ebola) that city would be isolated at the point of a gun at all points of ingress and egress by the CDC. Cordon Sanitare has now been put into effect in Africa, isolating those countries. Clearly, Americans are concerned that the CDC is protecting travel in and out of West Africa and want to assure that everything is done to stop spread of the disease. Dr. Frieden, the CDC and America would be better served if a travel ban and quarantine policy were in place on all those coming back from countries with Ebola outbreaks.
Dr. Frieden needs to build the confidence of Americans in the CDC to carry on this most essential function of government: public safety. He should be very careful about casually dismissing concerns that Police Officers are not required to wear hazmat or protective suits into the Apartment of the infected person Thomas Eric Duncan as he did on Fox and Friends this morning. The CDC’s own website states Ebola can remain present for “up to six days” in rooms that have not been routinely cleaned by hospital-experienced professionals. Casually dismissing this major problem on the air does not build the kind of confidence Americans need and deserve in the CDC at this critical time.
Dr. Frieden is right that there should be no travel ban INTO West Africa so that efforts can be made there to control the disease. President Obama has made that clear by sending 3,000 American troops there. But that is a case of “essential” personnel going in to help the situation. That should be allowed and then those people coming back should be put into a three week quarantine prior to returning. This is already happening in South Africa, Kenya and Zambia. They have banned travel from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea and are holding those travelers for extensive medical testing prior to permitting them from crossing their border.
At this critical moment in efforts to stop spread of Ebola in America forever, every step must be taken under the law. Dr. Frieden and President Obama needs to issue a travel ban and quarantine from countries containing Ebola outbreaks. If the Federal government does not take this action, then local and State Health Departments should. The Florida Department of Health should determine, beginning today, if the CDC will stop ingress into Florida air and sea ports. If they will not, then the Florida Department of Health should send their field workers out, with assistance of other state law enforcement officers and agencies, to enact a travel ban into Florida from countries with active Ebola outbreaks.