Effectiveness of travel bans to control infectious disease outbreaks is mostly unknown

Effectiveness of travel bans to control infectious disease outbreaks is mostly unknown

Because of the quick and deadly outbreak in late December of a novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China, now known as COVID-19 – infecting tens of thousands and killing hundreds within weeks, while spreading to at least 24 other countries – many governments, including the United States, have banned or significantly restricted travel to and from China. And while travel bans are frequently used to stop the spread of an emerging infectious disease, a new University of Washington and Johns Hopkins University study of published research found that the effectiveness of travel bans is mostly unknown. However, said lead author Nicole Errett, a lecturer in the UW Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences in the School of Public Health, that's largely due to the fact that very little research into the effectiveness of travel bans exists. "Some of the evidence suggests that a travel ban may delay the arrival of an infectious disease in a country by days or weeks. However, there is very little evidence to suggest that a travel ban eliminates the risk of the disease crossing borders in the long term," said Errett, co-director of the ColLABorative on Extreme Event Resilience, a research lab focused on addressing real-world issues relevant to community resilience. The researchers combed through thousands of published articles in an effort to identify those that directly addressed travel bans used to reduce the geographic impact of the Ebola virus, SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and the Zika virus. They did not include studies of influenza viruses, for which travel bans have already been shown to be ineffective in the long term. Related Stories



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