CDC director: Travel ban could make Ebola outbreak worse

NBC screengrab

A travel ban to the countries facing an Ebola outbreak could paradoxically make the problem worse, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden said during a Saturday press conference.

ADVERTISEMENT
Frieden said the CDC would consider any and all precautions, but warned that a travel ban could make it harder to get medical care and aid workers to regions dealing with the outbreak.

He cited the recent delay African Union aid workers experienced trying to get to Liberia.

"Their ability to get there was delayed by about a week because their flight was canceled and they were stuck in a neighboring country," he said.

Frieden also said the CDC has experienced a spike in reported potential cases of Ebola following the first diagnosis of a patient in the U.S. in Dallas earlier this week, saying the rise in concern was a good thing but that he remained the only patient who has been identified as suffering from the disease. Two patients who were initially identified as having potential Ebola symptoms in the Washington, D.C. area were ruled to not have the disease on Saturday.

"We have definitely seen an increase in the number since this patient was diagnosed… that is as it should be," Frieden said.

"We have already gotten well over 100 inquiries for possible patients… this one patient has tested positive," he said. "We expect we will see more rumors, concerns, possibilities of cases. Until there is a positive test that's what they are, rumors and concerns."

Frieden emphasized lessons to be learned from the delayed response to the Ebola patient in Dallas. It took two days for those who had been in contact with him to be contacted by medical officials, and Frieden said that should alert medical professionals to pay especially close attention to patients' travel history if they're showing signs of fever.

"As we anticipated, the arrival of the first Ebola patient in the U.S. has really increased attention to what health workers in this country need to do to be alert and make sure a travel history is taking," he said. 

That sentiment was reiterated by Texas state Department of Health Services Director David Lakey, also on the call.

"Hospitals, healthcare workers across the nation have to learn from this experience," he said. "If you have a patient with fever and symptoms that have possibly be related to ebola, you have to ask that travel history and take it seriously."

None of those who had contact with the Dallas patient have shown any symptoms at this point.