Fight against Ebola requires compassion

The outbreak of Ebola has been devastating communities in West Africa since March. According to the World Health Organization figures, there are more than 14, 000 confirmed Ebola cases in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The worst outbreak of the virus has so far killed 5,00 people in those countries.

Liberia is the hardest hit country. The death toll in Liberia alone is 2,220. Ebola also takes a toll on the health workers: 427 medical workers were infected and 236 lost their lives while saving others.

Initially, global response to the Ebola crisis was ineffective, uncoordinated and lacked urgency. Now, the international community has come together to fight Ebola, but  travel ban and quarantining health workers returning from Ebola-affected West Africa would only create hysteria and panic here while would do little to curb the Ebola.

During the 2014 midterm elections, some Politicians on both parties used the Ebola tragedy as a campaign issue. For instance, because Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian national, who died of Ebola in a hospital in Texas, was from Liberia, Republican politicians, including Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senator Rob Portman, and Texas Governor Rick Perry, are calling for travel ban from and to Ebola stricken countries in West Africa.  Governor Perry said, “Air travel is in fact how this disease crosses borders. And it is certainly how it got to Texas in the first place.”

In fact, many medical experts with extensive backgrounds in infectious diseases and studied Ebola for many years, including Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National institute of Allergy and infectious diseases, are against the travel ban and the quarantine of the health workers. They are saying the most effective way to protect Americans from Ebola is to contain it in West Africa, If not the disease could spread to the rest of Africa and eventually to Europe and may be to America.

Travel ban would only hamper the delivery of the needed resources: clinical expertise, medical supplies and essential gears for fighting Ebola in the affected countries in West Africa: Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

The fragile countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone were recovering from decades of war and instability. Both countries have under-funded and ill-equipped health care system, lacking basic health infrastructures, and essential gears to fight Ebola

Travel ban would also hurt fragile economies already have been devastated by Ebola because farmers were not able to harvest, markets were shut down and borders were closed.

America’s competent health infrastructure can contain, stop, and protect Americans from the spread of Ebola. Instead of our elected politicians imposing more restrictions, they should listen and follow the advice of our leading medical experts, including the advice of the heads of Center for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health over the travel ban and the quarantine of health workers, which will make the problem worse.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, said, “We all have a stake in the battle against Ebola.”

Indeed, Fighting Ebola is a global efforts and it requires compassion, not fear.

This commentary originally appeared in the Columbus Dispatch on November 8, 2014, and was written by Ali Mohamed