If you had never heard of Ebola before, chances are that you have now. Ebola, a serious and often fatal virus, has made its way to the United States; but that’s not a reason to panic. Ebola has been present in africa since the 1970’s, and can only be transmitted through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person. The current outbreak in West africa has severely affected the countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, but it is important to remember that these countries have much weaker health care and sanitation systems than those in the United States.
With that being said, the federal government should be doing everything possible to prevent the further spread of Ebola in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security announced this week that all foreign nationals traveling from Guinea, Liberia, or Sierra Leone to the United States will have to travel through one of five major U.S. airports where additional Ebola screening measures have been deployed, including Dulles here in Virginia. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that they will begin monitoring travelers arriving from these West African countries for 21 days after entering the United States.
I’m glad that the Obama administration is showing more concern about the possibility of people infected with Ebola entering the U.S. and spreading this deadly disease, but the Administration must do more to protect Americans. Officials openly admit that these enhanced screening measures would have never detected Ebola in Thomas Eric Duncan, a non-U.S. citizen, who later infected two American nurses in Dallas before succumbing to the disease.
Common sense and precaution must be employed to effectively confront Ebola here at home. Just a few days ago, I called on President Obama to use the authority granted to him by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act to temporarily ban foreign nationals who were recently in an Ebola-ravaged country from traveling to the United States. Given the number of individuals in africa who have perished from this disease and the longer incubation period of the disease, common sense would dictate that the Administration should take the necessary precautions to limit the access of people who might be carrying Ebola to enter the U.S.
President Obama has a real solution at his disposal under current law and can use it at any time to temporarily ban foreign nationals from entering the U.S. from Ebola-ravaged countries. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that 67 percent of Americans surveyed said they would support “restricting entry to the United States by people who’ve been in affected countries.”
I will continue to monitor the response to Ebola, and encourage you to stay informed as well. Luckily, there have been no cases of Ebola in Virginia, but it is the job of the federal government to help ensure it stays that way. I urge the President to take every step possible to protect the American people from danger.
Bob Goodlatte represents Virginia’s Sixth District in the House of Representatives.