Louisiana is set to host one of the year’s biggest gatherings of infectious disease experts next week, but anyone's who's recently been to West Africa won’t be welcome.
A pair of top state officials wrote a letter to the more than 3,500 members of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene who planned to attend the conference this week, warning them to stay away if they’ve had potential Ebola exposure.
“In Louisiana, we love to welcome visitors, but we must balance that hospitality with the protection of Louisiana residents and other visitors,” wrote Kathy Klieber, Louisiana’s secretary of Health and Hospitals, and Kevin Davis, director of the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
“We do hope that you will consider a future visit to New Orleans, when we can welcome you appropriately,” they wrote in the letter, according to Bloomberg News. The letter was first reported by Science.
The society of researchers has asked its members to comply with the state’s rules, though it said it does not know how many members could be affected.
Some scientists plan to protest the ban while others have already cancelled plans to attend.
The group's incoming president, Dr. Christopher Plowe, warned that the move could hinder the global effort to understand and ultimately contain the disease.
”This meeting is a place for people who are working on Ebola to share the latest information and go back better prepared to fight the epidemic,” Plowe told the scientific journal Nature. ”There is a potential hindrance to that effort of people not being able to come to the meeting.”
Louisiana is one of a dozen states that has implemented Ebola restrictions that are more stringent than federal guidelines. Anyone in the state who has traveled to West Africa has been told to avoid large groups of people and public transportation.
Under federal recommendations, a person would only be told to isolate themselves from the general public if they have have had known direct exposure to the virus, which has infected more than 13,000 people in West Africa and four people in the United States.
President Obama criticized the strict state policies Wednesday, issuing an impassioned plea for governors to enact science-based policies that would not punish people helping to combat the outbreak.
“When I hear people talking about American leadership, and then are promoting policies that would avoid leadership and have us running in the opposite direction and hiding under the covers, it makes me a little frustrated,” he said, standing alongside a half-dozen doctors and nurses in medical coats.
This story was updated at 2:30 p.m.