No Need to Ban Ebola Travel: There is No Risk in West Africa

Empirical research says a travel ban can do little to stop a small number of the Ebola virus from getting from an infected person to a traveller passing through a foreign country. Scientists also said that quarantining people who only may have been in contact with the patient could expose non-infected, potentially infectious travelers.

This week, Swiss authorities rescinded the threat of any mandatory quarantine for foreign medical workers, teachers, and other travelers in Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea. A common belief in the four countries where outbreaks have taken place — and elsewhere around the world — is that the Ebola virus is spread only by direct contact with someone who has the virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this theory is flawed. An infectious disease can be spread in many ways, not just direct contact. That is, Ebola is a “generalized disease,” not “spontaneous infection.” In other words, a person who has Ebola does not suddenly get it because the person whose left arm is infected then infects their right arm.

This is not to say that Ebola cannot be spread from person to person. Only 1 percent of cases have been linked to contact with infected patients while also being nursing or caring for them. The spread of the disease depends on how the virus finds its way into other people’s bodies, not specifically whether or not the virus is in the air.

Fortunately, at this point, Liberia and Sierra Leone are the only two countries in West Africa hit by the Ebola outbreak. The outbreak was contained only after being declared to be “over” in late July of last year.

Scientists do not believe the health of the people there is at risk. Certainly, there is not a Ebola virus in the region. Several studies have found that Ebola is only transmitted between people through bodily fluids such as semen and tears. People can transmit Ebola not through what they eat or drink, but through other bodily fluids or equipment they may have used. People can also contact Ebola by touching bodies with contaminated gloves and other items. So, this is the easiest way to get Ebola is to touch the corpse of a person who has it.

Despite the use of essential oil mixes to fight Ebola, one of the medicines has had a connection to cases in Liberia. CDSO has a solution with a spike in its oil mixed with salts that act as a “shock absorber” and a natural anti-malarial to restore the body’s fluid balance. Earlier this year, the president of the company stepped down from his position after admitting a conflict of interest. The scientist who was promoting the product said he sold his 50 percent stake in the company only because he knew of the controversy, and denied he lied.

This is not the first time such bans have been extended to a country in West Africa or elsewhere in the world. Some countries have imposed “general restrictions” on Ebola-infected passengers, but others have used “universal voluntary quarantine” as the name of their quarantining policy. It is an enlightened new policy – one that is fortunately not necessary. European countries should not be in the business of quarantining people who do not pose any real threat to human health.

Switzerland, like other parts of the world where Ebola outbreaks have occurred, should consider similar travel bans – they simply do not work. But they do work in other contexts. As our civilization evolves, we should try to forge more effective laws, like the travel bans, to prevent infections from being spread to new populations.

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