The risk that the Ebola virus, which doctors can’t treat or cure, could reach the United States from West Africa is small. But American officials are starting to think it’s better to be safe than sorry.
On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised its warning level for U.S. travel to the three African nations hit hardest by the worst Ebola outbreak in history: Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The “Level 3” alert urges all U.S. residents to avoid nonessential travel to these countries because of the outbreak.
The CDC had previously issued a “Level 2” travel alert, which warns U.S. visitors traveling to Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, and advises them to “practice enhanced precautions” and avoid contact with infected individuals.
The virus has infected more than 1,300 people and killed more than more than 700 since February, according to the latest numbers from the World Health Organization. Between July 24 and July 27 alone, 57 deaths were reported.
On Monday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki declined to say whether her department was considering travel restrictions in response to the outbreak. “In terms of what we’re considering, I don’t have anything to predict,” she said. “We’re taking every precaution, of course.”
No case of Ebola has never been reported on U.S. soil. But the recent death of Patrick Sawyer from the disease appears to have hit close to home. Sawyer, a naturalized U.S. citizen, collapsed in a Nigerian airport after departing Liberia, marking the first time in history that the Ebola virus traveled from one country to another by plane. Had Sawyer’s symptoms taken longer to manifest, he would have made it to his final destination: Minnesota.