No Time to Hide

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No Time to Hide

www.nbcnews.com

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Rhys E, Writer

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I disagree with Gregg Jarrett’s opinion editorial (“If Obama thinks Ebola is a ‘national security priority’; why no travel ban?” FoxNews.com October 3, 2014) criticizing President Obama’s decision to impose a travel ban from West Africa in light of the Ebola outbreak. Mr. Jarrett seems to believe that restricting travel to the United States from Ebola stricken countries in West Africa will keep U. S. citizens safe from the threat of the Ebola virus. In reality, the opposite is true; a travel ban will not only worsen the situation by preventing the containment of Ebola, it will exacerbate what is already a humanitarian crisis. There have been over 2,300 deaths from Ebola in the past six months alone. The only way to keep ourselves and the world safe is to keep air travel open so that medical help, which is desperately needed, can be sent to West Africa to contain this terrible virus by giving victims proper medical treatment and providing sanitation to prevent further spread of the disease.

Sound medical practice and policy aside, there are two other corollaries of Mr. Jarrett’s foolish, reactionary stance, which need to be considered. A travel ban would restrict the personal liberties of American citizens for no good cause, eroding constitutional freedom.  It would also lead to a dangerous escalation of what is already a growing trend of xenophobia in the United States today, a phenomenon that threatens to bring back a return of American isolationism. Mr. Jarrett seems intent on fear mongering of the worst kind. He seems to believe that by closing U.S. borders to air travel, he can stop the spread of Ebola. What about surface travel? What about the fact that the African continent is only a ferry ride away from Europe in places like Morocco? Is he going to suggest banning air travel to Europe next? The economic ramifications of this mindset are staggering, but it is also deeply foolish. We can ban flights to and from West Africa, but an infected person is just as likely to travel to Lagos, Nairobi Jakarta, or Mexico City. There is no way to seal off the United States from what could well become a pandemic. The idea that we can shut ourselves off from global problems like illness, hunger and pollution is a dangerously 19th century mindset for the 21st century.

It is ethically untenable for the United States, one of the richest countries in the developed world, to shut off travel to West Africa because the net effect would be closing down aid and humanitarian relief to Ebola stricken countries. The World Health Organization warns that there may soon be thousands of new cases per week in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria. Already the region is desperate for doctors. In a recent New York Times editorial, Michael T. Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, reported the startling fact that that Liberia has only 250 doctors left for a population of 4 million. Left untreated, Ebola will not only spread if it takes off as pandemic, but also may eventually mutate to become transmissible by air. Jarrett is incorrect in saying that Ebola can be transmitted like the flu. At present Ebola can only be transmitted by large droplets of vomit or saliva, which cannot travel far and certainly are not airborne. Ironically, Jarrett’s fear could become reality if we follow his idea to shut off West Africa. The World Health Organization warns that if the Ebola virus continues unchecked, it could possibly mutate to the extent that it becomes transmissible by air.

The solution to the Ebola crisis is action, not isolation. A ban on air travel will only discourage humanitarian relief efforts such as the Red Cross and make it impossible for nurses and doctors from the U.S. to travel to West Africa to provide desperately needed medical help to save lives and contain the virus. We can’t afford to stick our heads in the sand. The only way to be “safe” in our 21st century world is to recognize our interconnectedness as a truly global community and take action to help, not hide, through isolationism.

 

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