Union Leader Publisher Advocates For Misguided Ebola-Related Travel Ban Contrary To Expert Opinions

The publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader penned an editorial attacking the Obama administration's response to the ongoing Ebola crisis and suggested the president apply a travel ban on the affected countries, advice that has been roundly rejected by major healthcare and infectious disease experts as detrimental to relief efforts.

In an October 7 editorial, Joseph W. McQuaid blasted the administration as “incompetent” for relying on screening to prevent the spread of Ebola and instead suggested that a general travel ban to the region be administered:

Sending American soldiers to West Africa to assist with the Ebola epidemic makes sense only if it helps contain the disease over there. That would include making as certain as possible that those troops are protected while there and properly quarantined when they return home.

As for allowing travelers from affected West African nations to enter the United States at this time, that is crazy. It is yet another example of the most incompetent President we have ever seen.


Screening for symptoms of a deadly infectious disease that may not show up for weeks is not the answer. A travel ban to and from West Africa is what is needed, now.

McQuaid and other right-wing pundits who have called for a travel ban are ignoring experts who say a ban would actually impede Ebola relief efforts. The heads of the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, and independent advisers to the World Health Organization (WHO), all argue that reactionary measures such as a travel ban are ineffectual and could actually destabilize affected countries, worsening the spread of the virus. The WHO, advocating against a travel ban in October 2014, explained that while exit screening is not 100 percent effective, “completion of a screening questionnaire and testing for the presence of fever represent the best available indicators of risk.”

As Wendy Parmet, director of the Program on Health Policy and Law at Northeastern University School of Law, explained, travel bans make people feel safe but that sense of safety could be an illusion, “our own safety depends on our getting it right there, not on building the walls.” Instead, Lauire Garrett, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations and a Pulitzer Prize winning science writer, suggests “nothing could immediately be a great game-changer than a quick, reliable Ebola screening test”: Garrett goes on to explain:

Such an assay would help quell the rising panic in the United States, prevent passage of laws that could be viewed as discriminatory against people of color and/or Africans, and provide nearly instantaneous hospital diagnosis. Rather than rattling the nerves of hundreds of Dallas parents afraid to return their children to classrooms visited by Duncan's youngest contacts, public health officials could simply test the Duncan clan and assure the public that none are carrying Ebola.

Furthermore, developed countries such as the U.S. are well equipped to deal with a virus that spreads solely through the exchange of bodily fluids. As Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, explained in his column for Bloomberg BusinessWeek:

Even partially effective isolation of people with symptoms is enough to stop an epidemic--and that's why all previous Ebola outbreaks have sputtered, leaving the world with no reported cases in 2010, for example. The U.S. has top-notch isolation facilities, and health authorities have considerable experience of “contact tracing”, or finding all the people the victim has spent time with since they began exhibiting symptoms and checking that they don't have the disease. All of which is why CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden has expressed confidence that Ebola will be stopped in its tracks in America.

McQuaid's reckless recommendation to impose a travel ban ignores expert medical advice and continues the Union Leader's pattern of misleading readers on the topic of health care.