What the U.S. Is Doing About West Africa’s Ebola Outbreak

Health officials are advising stateside doctors to watch for symptoms of the virus in patients, while one congressman is calling for a complete travel ban for affected nations.

A man holds a newspaper featuring a front page story on the death of Liberian diplomat and U.S. citizen Patrick Sawyer, pictured with his wife Decontee, who died of the Ebloa virus in Lagos on July 30.
National Journal
Marina Koren
July 30, 2014, 10:02 a.m.

Last week, for the first time in re­cor­ded his­tory, the Ebola vir­us traveled from one coun­try to an­oth­er by plane. The man who car­ried it died five days after touch­ing down in Ni­ger­ia, be­fore he could make the last leg of his trip, to Min­neapol­is.

The death of Patrick Saw­yer, a nat­ur­al­ized U.S. cit­izen who worked for the fin­ance min­istry of Liber­ia, where he was born, has sparked fears in the U.S. that the Ebola out­break in West Africa could spread to the United States. “People wer­en’t really tak­ing it [Ebola] ser­i­ously un­til it hit Patrick,” his wife, De­contee Saw­yer, told CNN on Wed­nes­day. Her hus­band was trav­el­ing from Liber­ia to the States to cel­eb­rate his young daugh­ters’ birth­days in Au­gust. “People are ready to take ac­tion.”

In the U.S., which has nev­er had its own case of Ebola, one mem­ber of Con­gress wants to re­strict travel from af­fected West Afric­an na­tions. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla, wrote a let­ter to Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry and Home­land Se­cur­ity Sec­ret­ary Jeh John­son on Tues­day re­quest­ing a travel ban on the cit­izens of Guinea, Liber­ia, and Si­erra Le­one, “and any for­eign per­son who has vis­ited one of these na­tions 90 days pri­or to ar­riv­ing in the United States.” The con­gress­man said Mur­tala Muhammed In­ter­na­tion­al Air­port in La­gos, where Patrick Saw­yer col­lapsed from his symp­toms, in par­tic­u­lar poses a danger be­cause it of­fers dir­ect flights to the U.S. 

“I urge you to con­sider the en­hanced danger Ebola now presents to the Amer­ic­an pub­lic,” Grayson wrote. A spokes­wo­man for Grayson said Wed­nes­day that his of­fice has not yet re­ceived a re­sponse.

The Ebola vir­us, which has no ap­proved treat­ment or vac­cine, has in­fec­ted more than 1,100 people and killed more than 670 in Africa since Feb­ru­ary, ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­gan­iz­a­tion.

State De­part­ment spokes­wo­man Jen Psaki de­clined to say dur­ing a Monday press brief­ing wheth­er her agency is con­sid­er­ing im­pos­ing travel warn­ings or re­stric­tions for West Afric­an coun­tries. “In terms of what we’re con­sid­er­ing, I don’t have any­thing to pre­dict,” she said. “We’re tak­ing every pre­cau­tion, of course.”

In Africa, af­fected na­tions are us­ing travel re­stric­tions as their first line of de­fense. Asky, a ma­jor West Afric­an air­line, has sus­pen­ded all flights to Liber­ia and Si­erra Le­one to keep “its pas­sen­gers and staff safe dur­ing this un­set­tling time,” the BBC re­por­ted Tues­day. All trav­el­ers ar­riv­ing from Guinea on Asky flights are screened for signs of in­fec­tion. Arik Air, Ni­ger­ia’s largest air­line, has also banned flights to Liber­ia and Si­erra Le­one. Liber­ia closed most of its bor­der cross­ings and banned pub­lic gath­er­ings on Monday, and po­lice of­ficers are screen­ing pas­sen­gers for symp­toms in the cap­it­al’s Roberts In­ter­na­tion­al Air­port.

The Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion says there is little risk that the vir­us could reach the U.S. by air travel. The agency has ad­vised stateside health care pro­viders to watch pa­tients who have traveled to West Africa re­cently for symp­toms of the vir­us. It also is­sued a “level 2” travel alert, warn­ing U.S. vis­it­ors to Liber­ia, Guinea, and Si­erra Le­one to avoid con­tact with in­fec­ted in­di­vidu­als. The next step in pre­cau­tion, a “level 3” warn­ing, would prompt the State De­part­ment to ad­vise against non­es­sen­tial travel to these na­tions.

U.S. em­bassies in the af­fected na­tions are re­com­mend­ing that U.S. cit­izens trav­el­ing there en­roll in a State De­part­ment pro­gram that provides se­cur­ity up­dates and makes it easi­er for em­bassy or con­su­late of­fi­cials to con­tact trav­el­ers in case of emer­gen­cies.

The Ebola vir­us is one of the most dan­ger­ous agents known to hu­mans. It at­tacks the im­mune sys­tem, caus­ing fever, flu-like aches, vomit­ing, diarrhea and, in severe cases, in­tern­al and ex­tern­al bleed­ing. Caught early, the mor­tal­ity rate is 60 per­cent; found too late, it’s a near-hope­less 90 per­cent. Be­cause there’s not much doc­tors can do for pa­tients oth­er than al­le­vi­ate some of the symp­toms, the key to stop­ping an Ebola out­break is con­tain­ing it un­til it dies out. Now that the vir­us has hitched a ride aboard a plane full of healthy, po­ten­tial hosts, the im­port­ance of con­tain­ment is great­er than ever be­fore.

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
When It Comes to Mining Asteroids, Technology Is Only the First Problem
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Obama Reflects on His Economic Record
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Reagan Families, Allies Lash Out at Will Ferrell
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."

Source:
PEAK CONFIDENCE
Clinton No Longer Running Primary Ads
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-ex­pec­ted primary battle be­hind her, former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton (D) is no longer go­ing on the air in up­com­ing primary states. “Team Clin­ton hasn’t spent a single cent in … Cali­for­nia, In­di­ana, Ken­tucky, Ore­gon and West Vir­gin­ia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “cam­paign has spent a little more than $1 mil­lion in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone back­er in the Sen­ate, said the can­did­ate should end his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign if he’s los­ing to Hil­lary Clin­ton after the primary sea­son con­cludes in June, break­ing sharply with the can­did­ate who is vow­ing to take his in­sur­gent bid to the party con­ven­tion in Phil­adelphia.”

Source:
CITIZENS UNITED PT. 2?
Movie Based on ‘Clinton Cash’ to Debut at Cannes
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."

Source:
×