White House, officials spar on Ebola travel ban

The White House said Thursday that it is still against instituting a travel ban on West African countries suffering from Ebola outbreaks.

Meanwhile, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Tom Frieden dodged travel ban questions from Congress during a subcommittee hearing on the Ebola response.

"We will consider any options to better protect Americans," Frieden eventually responded to a series of questions from Rep. Timothy Murphy.

Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Committee Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on 'Examining the US Public Health Response to the Ebola Outbreak' on Capitol Hill in Washington,DC on October 16, 2014.
Nicholas Kamm | AFP | Getty Images
Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Committee Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on 'Examining the US Public Health Response to the Ebola Outbreak' on Capitol Hill in Washington,DC on October 16, 2014.

Many members of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which held the hearing, still called for a ban—Rep. Fred Upton said the U.S. should institute those restrictions today.

Frieden later warned, however, that imposing a ban on air travel from these nations could induce potentially infected people to come into the U.S. through other countries.

"Right now we know who's coming in. If we try to eliminate travel, the possibility that some will travel over land, will come from other places...will mean that we won't be able to do multiple things," he said, explaining that temperature checks and interviews conducted at airports provide valuable safeguards to public health.

Frieden said one reason a travel ban would not work is that the borders in West Africa are "porous."

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases's director, concurred with Frieden's sentiment, adding that a travel ban would increase uncertainty to combating Ebola.

"It's certainly understandable how someone could come to a conclusion that the best approach would be to just seal off the border from those countries, but we're dealing with something now that we know what we're dealing with."

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Reuters contributed to this report