WASHINGTON – More than two dozen lawmakers want the United States government to ban travelers from the West African countries hit hardest by the Ebola virus until the outbreak is under control.
Twenty-three Republican and three Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed a letter released on Thursday to President Barack Obama asking the State Department to impose a travel ban and restrict visas issued to citizens of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
In the letter, dated Oct. 8, they also asked U.S. health and border control officials to consider quarantine for anyone who arrives from the affected nations after being exposed to Ebola until 21 days have passed, the period in which they would show signs of the illness.
The letter was released a day after the death of the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, a Liberian man who traveled from his home country on Sept. 19 and died in an isolation ward of a Dallas hospital.
The case put authorities and the public on alert for the deadly virus and the government increased efforts to try and stop it from spreading outside West Africa.
The lawmakers said Obama should not wait for the World Health Organization to dictate how U.S. authorities should proceed.
“The WHO is an organization of unelected bureaucrats and political appointees of foreign countries. It has no duty to protect the lives and well-being of Americans, as you do,” the letter said.
U.S. health authorities on Wednesday announced they would begin enhanced screening of travelers for fever from the affected countries at five major airports.
The Ebola virus has killed nearly 4,000 people in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea since March in the largest outbreak on record. It causes hemorrhagic fever and is spread through direct contact with body fluids from an infected person.