Back in 2004, Dr. Ashish Jha examined the travel ban and the epidemic that came in its wake as it was implemented, first in Canada, then when hundreds of people in New York who had been on flights to the Caribbean arrived ill with the common cold.
At the time, Jha wrote a report for the New England Journal of Medicine.
In 2001, the 9/11 terror attacks had sparked anxieties about people from the Middle East travelling and then entering the United States. People took things to the next level when the airport ban was implemented.
Jha warned then that other countries would become infected with diseases from travelers that had been denied entry.
However, that has not happened.
Canada and the United States have both come through the travel ban – now more than 10 years – unscathed, Jha told Fox News.
In fact, Jha said there has been a two-fold gain.
“There’s been a lot of things happening that I wouldn’t have imagined having happened 10 years ago. There have been a lot of interventions, improvements in influenza surveillance around the world,” Jha said, adding that two other disruptions to travel have also kept such an outbreak from gaining much traction.
These disruptions include Panama’s decision to block Dominican tourists traveling on the Caribbean Airlines with flying from two airports there, instead relying on internet services.
“That made some Caribbean communities feel isolated and that led to a Haitian outbreak of cholera in a Haitian hospital in Port-au-Prince,” Jha explained.
Five people died after contracting the disease.
The World Health Organization now reports that the U.S. would not be Ebola-free until 2021. However, New York State health officials said that as of Nov. 25, no Ebola-related cases had been reported in the New York area this year.
“By 2020 we’ll be better prepared for a pandemic that is going to come through the air because I can tell you, as you are exploring this story, you are testing like you do in ‘Whack-a-Mole’ and that’s significant progress,” Jha said.
But those aren’t the only changes needed, Jha said.
“We still have to work on in-transit systems that have capacity, especially with air cargo. And we really need public health capacity; we need public health services that are really able to do what you’re talking about, the tsunami and pandemic response of the future.”
The Travel Ban and Ebola did not only unite the global medical community on the side of science, Jha said, but they also galvanized the international medical community to be ready to tackle any epidemic that arises.
“So, I wouldn’t have imagined that 10 years ago that the CDC would have said the U.S. is no longer in a position of strength in the global battle against Ebola. But here we are,” Jha said.
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