3 reasons why the U.S. hasn’t restricted flights to and from West Africa

Airplanes on runways (AP Images)
Airplanes wait to take off at LaGuardia Airport in New York. (AP Images)

Despite the worst-ever Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the death of an Ebola patient in the United States, U.S. officials continue to permit commercial airline flights to and from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Here are three reasons why:

1.   As tweeted by the World Health Organization, travel restrictions would make it hard for aid workers to enter Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

WHO tweet about flights from West Africa
2.    Airplanes are safe. “Unlike infections such as influenza or tuberculosis, Ebola is not airborne,” said Dr. Isabelle Nuttall, director of WHO’s Department of Global Capacities Alert and Response, in a press statement. “It can only be transmitted by direct contact with the body fluids of a person who is sick with the disease.”

WHO tweet on flights from West Africa3.   Isolation of an affected country is not wise. “When you completely seal off and don’t let planes in or out of the West African countries involved, then you could paradoxically make things much worse,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, a director at the National Institutes of Health. “We’re not going to be able to get to zero risk no matter what we do unless and until we control the outbreak in West Africa.”

Tom Frieden's tweet on flights from West Africa

Rather than halt flights, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Homeland Security will screen passengers for fever at selected major airports. CDC Director Tom Frieden reinforces the key insight:  “Even if we tried to close the border … it would backfire, because by isolating these countries, it’ll make it harder to help them.”

Get the facts about Ebola.