henever a new potential global pandemic breaks (coronavirus), the first instinct of governments all over the world is to impose a travel ban. Travel bans make logical sense; if you can stop the movement of infected people, you might be able to stop the transmission of the disease or virus. Unfortunately, history shows that travel bans simply don’t work. By the time the contagion is discovered, the infection has already started to spread. They are either too little or too late.
People Still Travel
The only way that a travel ban would stop the spread of a virus is if it effectively stopped 100 percent of infected individuals. In the real world, 100 percent is never an option. People will always find a way to do what they want despite any laws or bans.
During the recent coronavirus 2019-nCoV outbreak, Chinese airports began testing people at the gates for symptoms by checking for fevers at security checkpoints. It’s a good idea, but there are two problems with the method: people can lower their temperatures with medication, and symptoms don’t always appear immediately.
One Chinese woman made headlines in January for taking medication to lower her fever to get past airport security screenings. She managed to travel to Paris despite the strict travel ban that was put in place.
Even if airport health screenings caught every single fever, the illness would still get through. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), coronavirus symptoms can appear from 2-14 days after infection. With developing suspicions that coronavirus can be spread asymptomatically, that means that someone can transmit the disease a full two weeks before a fever would stop their international flight.
Travel Bans Worsen Conditions
During the 2014 Ebola outbreak, the director of the CDC issued a warning about the ineffectiveness travel bans. He claimed that the only thing accomplished by instituting a travel ban is isolating infected areas from aid that could help to contain the infection at the source. He compares global epidemics to a wildfire: “When a wildfire breaks out, we don’t fence it off. We go in to extinguish it before one of the random sparks sets off another outbreak somewhere else.”
Not only will the isolated communities get worse without any international aid, other communities that become infected will be reluctant to admit the severity of their condition and continue to travel, further spreading the virus or disease.
The only way to effectively stop the spread of contagious illnesses is to be proactive and use preventative measures. For the average person: wash your hands, cover your coughs and avoid interaction with people as much as possible (i.e., do not go to work when you’re sick).
For medical professionals working with contagious illnesses, utilizing safe disease mitigation strategies is of the utmost importance. Equipment like the ISOPOD offers a mobile method of pathogen containment that can be utilized in the field. The ISOPOD is a compact negative pressure isolation and transportation system designed to hold an individual patient. It is designed to shield first responders while simultaneously allowing them to perform life-saving medical procedures on contagious patients. This equipment was used to transport infected patients during both the 2014-16 West Africa Ebola outbreak and the 2015 MERS crisis. It can be set up and deployed in less than two minutes, allowing responders to act quickly upon discovering a potentially infectious patient.
Do not rely on ineffective travel bans to keep you and your community safe. Proactive containment at the source and using proper disease mitigation equipment such as ISOPODs could form part of a broader strategy to prevent the spread of pathogens.