NIH official firm in opposition to travel ban

NIH official firm in opposition to travel ban
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A top official at the National Institutes of Health on Sunday said a travel ban on flights to and from West Africa would only make things worse in the fight against Ebola, pushing back against calls from lawmakers to institute one.

“The fact is it would be very, very difficult if we lost control of easily tracking people,” Dr. Anthony FauciAnthony FauciSunday shows preview: New COVID-19 variant emerges; supply chain issues and inflation persist NY governor declares state of emergency to prepare for omicron US to restrict travel from eight African nations over new COVID-19 concerns MORE, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CNN’s "State of the Union." 

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Fauci said roughly 36,000 people tried to get on flights out of one of the three West African countries hit hardest by Ebola during August and September. Seventy-seven were blocked because of a "health issue."

"When they investigated them, none of them had Ebola. A lot of them had malaria," Fauci said of the 77 that were stopped.

“So, there is not a lot of people trying to get into the country,” Fauci said.

When asked if health officials where telling the administration what they wanted to hear concerning the travel ban, Fauci said, "No." 

“I’ve never had a case where a president is telling me to tell him something,” Fauci said. “They just ask what your opinion is.”

Fauci stressed that the disease, which so far has killed roughly 4,500 people in West Africa, is only transmitted when a person is showing symptoms.

“If a person doesn’t have any symptoms, they are not capable of transmitting it,” he said. 

Fauci is helping oversee the treatment of one of the nurses who contracted the disease from Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola patient in the U.S.

He said on "Fox News Sunday" that Nina Pham, who is currently being treated in Bethesda, Md., is doing “fair, very stable and comfortable."

Later, on ABC’s “This Week,” Fauci added that he wouldn’t say Pham is out of the woods just yet.

“I feel strongly that she is going to do well, but you never say never until I walk out of the hospital with her,” he said.

When asked if he was confident U.S. hospitals would be able to handle a possible outbreak, Fauci said not every hospital is meant to be able to handle a serious illness like Ebola.

“I think this idea that every single hospital can take care of a seriously ill Ebola patient is just not true,” he said, adding that the strategy is to train all workers to know how to diagnose, contain and then transport an Ebola patient to a facility that can treat them.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will issue new guidelines soon for health workers on Ebola, Fauci added.

The new protocol will make sure that healthcare workers are now “completely covered with no skin showing whatsoever,” he said.
The outbreak has become a political issue, with lawmakers accusing the administration of mismanaging its response and being too slow to respond the crisis. 

In a move to gain control of the situation, President Obama named an Ebola czar, Ron KlainRon KlainButtigieg has high name recognition, favorability rating in Biden Cabinet: survey Biden plan would raise average tax rate for households above M: JCT Biden's spending binge makes Americans poorer, just before the holidays MORE, on Friday. Republicans slammed the president over the pick, arguing Klain has no public health experience.

Fauci shot back at those accusations on Sunday, calling it “misplaced criticism.”

“We are talking about an Ebola response coordinator,” Fauci said. “Someone who has lots of managerial experience … we are talking about one designated person who is an excellent manager.”

Fauci said he has already started exchanging emails with Klain and will meet with him next week.

— This report was updated at 10:32 a.m.