Dr. Fauci: U.S. Should 'Absolutely Not' Suspend Flights to and From Ebola-Stricken Countries

By Susan Jones | October 6, 2014 | 7:13am EDT

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - "Absolutely not," the United States should not suspend flights to and from West Africa, nor should it impose a visa ban on people from three West African nations hardest-hit by Ebola, Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Sunday.

Chris Wallace of Fox News asked Fauci: "British Airlines have suspended all flights to and from the infected areas of Africa. Should the U.S. do the same? And should we impose a visa ban on anybody coming from these three countries in Africa?"

"No, in my opinion absolutely not," Fauci responded. "Because when you start closing off countries like that, there's a real danger of making things worse. You isolate them. You can cause unrest in the country. It's conceivable that governments could fall if you isolate them completely."

Fauci said suspending flights would make it difficult to get supplies to West Africa. "They need help. They need equipment and they need health care workers to come in," he said.

But it's possible to fly equipment in without flying passengers out, Wallace told Fauci.

"That's true," Fauci conceded. "But experience is, when you close such a country, you create such stress and fear and amplify the problem. So, I think any health care person will agree with me that that's not a good idea to completely block off the country."

Since passengers are still allowed to come to this country from West Africa, how effective is the health screening they are getting? Wallace asked Fauci. Wallace reported that 10,000 people have flown out of Liberia to other countries since July 26, when the Ebola outbreak accelerated, and only two have been been taken aside for additiional screening.

"The best way to avoid someone getting on a plane who...has Ebola is to do the exit screening," Fauci said. "You get your temperature taken and you get a questionnaire. Now, obviously, you're not going to be 100 percent risk-free." Fauci added that people with symptoms, including fever, will not be allowed on the plane.

Dr. Richard Besser, the chief health and medical editor for ABC News, told "This Week" host George Stephanopoulos that he was flagged for additional screening on his return to the United States after a week in Liberia, where he spent time in Ebola wards in full protective gear.

"When my passport went through passport control, it flagged me for additional screening, so they took me into a back room, asked me if I had had contact with anyone with Ebola, asked how I was feeling. I said I was feeling fine. They said, 'Welcome home," Besser said.

Before leaving Liberia, Besser said guards checked his temperature, then gave him a detailed questionnaire asking if he had any symptoms or did anything that put him in a high-risk category: "This is a really good screening questionnaire, but it's only going to work if people read it carefully and tell the truth," Besser said.

Besser said he was given a visual inspection before departure from Liberia and his temperature was taken a second time: "If you look sick, you have a fever, or you check yes on the questionnaire, you're not getting out."

Besser said on the first leg of his trip, from Liberia to Europe, some flight attendants wore masks and gloves. And at his layover in Brussels, "surprisingly it seems to be business as usual." Besser said he did not see any signs warning about Ebola at that airport.

Besser said he continues to monitor his temperature, and if he develops a fever, he will get medical care.

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