Skip to Content



Insights: Will Closing Borders Stop Infectious Diseases?

May 04, 2017 00:00 AM UTC
- Updated May 05, 2020 16:23 PM UTC

Doctors who fought Ebola say the most important thing is to make sure adequate healthcare is available, especially in rural communities.

[MUSIC PLAYING] BRYAN WALSH: When we're trying to fight infectious disease, whether it's Ebola, whether it's something else, why is it that closing borders in that way would be counterproductive? Yeah, NAHID BHADELIA: I was actually a coming out of one of my shifts and I turned on the TV and I say-- v see Donald Trump saying, oh, they shouldn't be brought back, you know. It was very personal to me when I heard that. I think one of the least helpful terms that came out of this was abundance of caution. People don't realize that abundance of caution carries its own weight. One was through abundance of caution, airlines stop flying, the consumer supplier stop shipping. We start running out of personal protective equipment in the field. There was a week in August where we cut up tarp to wear aprons. So our choices where do that and go in or not go in and there are a hundred something patients that get no care. It has a direct impact and when you change trade and travel, right? It also decrease the number of people coming in to volunteer. It has an immense impact. BRYAN WALSH: Great, Raj? RAJ PANJABI Yeah, I mean as far as the last time I reviewed the literature, you can't bomb Ebola, you can't pull up a wall to stop Ebola, and you can't really close borders to stop Ebola. So the science doesn't support it. I think the good news is science does support other things that the CDC has been really great about prevent, detect, and respond. And Nahid echoed that earlier. I think as we look at right now, the cutback in foreign aid and foreign assistance that's being proposed, I think one of the places where we would really hurt ourselves would be to ignore the signals that have come from Ebola. I mean, creating jobs for primary health care workers and equipping them in rural settings in Africa would be a great security initiative if that's all you cared about. Of course, there's many other reasons to do it. So you can't bomb Ebola basically. BRYAN WALSH: You can't bomb Ebola. Take that away. [MUSIC PLAYING]