We can all rest easy in the wake of reports that a 63-year-old man who died aboard an airliner en route from Lagos, Nigeria, to New York’s JFK late Wednesday was not infected with the Ebola virus. That’s the good word from officials with the ever-reliable Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who performed what the New York Post describes as a “cursory” examination of the corpse and ruled out Ebola as a cause of death.
Just two things: First, why should we trust the CDC, whose director, Thomas Frieden, seems incompetent even as he stonewalls on behalf of the administration, which refuses to ban flights from Africa? Second, even if we accept that the passenger, who was overcome with what has been described as “a fit of vomiting,” didn’t succumb to the Ebola virus, shouldn’t the public be told what did kill him and whether that is a new cause for concern?
The Post notes that “between 70 and 100 passengers a day arrive at JFK from the Ebola epicenter countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.” Prior to boarding and during flights, they share public restrooms and mingle with other travelers — all before their first screening stateside. The risks associated with the Ebola virus, which has a 21-day incubation period, are greatly magnified.
This most recent death prompted New York Rep. Peter King, a Republican, to write jointly to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Customs Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske to emphasize the need for “extraordinary measures intercept possible Ebola-infected passengers” at JFK in light of its high volume of travelers.
King calls for enhanced screening measures, which sounds like a half-measure. What is really needed at this point is a ban on flights to all U.S. cities from the hot zone. If the administration needs proof that such a measure would be effective in limiting the spread of this disease, they can find it in — of all places — Africa, where border closings have kept populations outside the hot zone relatively safe.
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