Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., said Monday that the U.S. should not allow anyone who has been to West Africa into the country until the Ebola epidemic is under control. Lummis' statement comes amid warnings from health officials that a travel ban would not help contain the virus' spread.
"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, according to the Huffington Post. Lummis was referring to the three worst-hit countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, which have been ravaged by the virus that has so far killed more than 4,000 people and has infected over 8,000 people, mostly in West Africa.
The U.S. recently began conducting travel checks at its airports while the three West African nations are also conducting screenings at local airports. Of the 275,000 international passengers landing daily at American airports, about 0.1 percent, or nearly 150 people, arrive from Africa.
“The way we’re going to reduce risk to Americans is to do the steps of protection and stop Ebola at the source in Africa,” Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, said in a briefing Monday, according to Bloomberg, adding: “If we do things that unintentionally make it harder to get that response in, to get supplies in,” it will “become much harder to stop the outbreak at the source.”
Nina Pham, a nurse at a Dallas hospital, became the first person to contract Ebola on American soil after she tested positive for the virus Saturday. Pham had treated Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to die of the disease in the U.S. According to the CDC, there was a breach of protocol that led to Pham becoming infected, and the organization was later criticized for blaming the hospital protocol.
Along with Lummis, other leaders in Congress too have called for a travel ban to help control the spread of the disease in the U.S.
“If we were really treating this as a public health issue why would we not immediately stop these flights,” Joe Barton, R-Texas, said in Dallas last week, according to Bloomberg, adding: “You’re almost guaranteeing mathematically we’re going to miss some people” while screening for Ebola at airports.