The CDC Just Raised Its Warning Level for U.S. Travel to Three African Countries

Here’s what that means.

National Journal
Marina Koren
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Marina Koren
July 31, 2014, 9:53 a.m.

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.

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