MOSCOW, October 15 (RIA Novosti) - Travel bans are ineffective toward containing the current Ebola epidemic and risk harming the economies of West African countries currently battling the deadly virus, World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman Eric Porterfield told RIA Novosti Wednesday.
"Travel bans will not work in containing this outbreak," the WHO spokesman said in an interview with RIA Novosti.
"Travel bans are impossible to apply effectively because the majority of travel in these West African countries is through uncontrolled land borders. Borders mean air, sea and road. Every day there are millions of people crossing the planet and ships trading goods up and down the coasts of the world," Porterfield added.
According to Porterfield, banning flights from Ebola-hit countries will not halt the spread of the disease. He stated that people will find a way around even the best systems and border checks if strongly inclined. Instead, countries should set up surveillance systems since those entering the country may develop symptoms of Ebola days after arriving.
Travel restrictions can also damage the economies of the Ebola-hit countries, already financially strained.
"Travel bans would result in major negative economic impact (no more exports, short supplies of food and fuel, no more business with other countries, closure of most transportation companies) on countries experiencing outbreaks of Ebola," the WHO spokesman told RIA Novosti.
"Such bans would increase poverty and social unrest and ultimately have a negative impact on the control of the outbreak," he added.
Some airlines such as Air France and British Airways have already imposed a ban on flights arriving from Ebola-stricken countries including Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Senegal, while the United States has not yet implemented the measure aimed at fighting the disease.
The current world's largest Ebola epidemic to date broke out in February in Guinea and soon spread to the neighboring countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Senegal.
According to the WHO, almost 9,000 cases of the Ebola virus have been reported, with the disease killing over 4,400 people so far.