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Louisiana's irrational hostility towards doctors will make Ebola worse, not better

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How one state's Ebola policy is preventing a medical meeting... of Ebola experts

Today, Louisiana state health officials told anyone who has traveled to an Ebola-affected country within the last 21 days — or treated Ebola patients elsewhere — not to come to the annual meeting of the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

The group, founded in 1903, is an organization of scientists, doctors, and others who aim to control infectious diseases that mainly affect the poorest people in the world. Like, for instance, Ebola. Their meeting will begin on Nov. 2 in New Orleans, and the group doesn't know how many scientists will be affected, incoming president Christopher Plowe told Science. Some who will be affected were planning to come from the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he says.

we see no utility in you traveling to New Orleans to simply be confined to your roomMeeting attendees received an e-mail today containing a letter from Kathy Kliebert, secretary of Louisiana's Department of Health and Hospitals, and Kevin Davis, director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness, which reads in part, "Given that conference participants with a travel and exposure history for [Ebola] are recommended not to participate in large group settings (such as this conference) or to utilize public transport, we see no utility in you traveling to New Orleans to simply be confined to your room."

The guidelines are stricter than the ones that have been sharply criticized in New York and New Jersey, and scientists say the restrictions don't make any sense. Even the letter acknowledges that: ""From a medical perspective, asymptomatic individuals are not at risk of exposing others," they write. "These precautions are being taken out of an abundance of caution for the current situation, and certainly do not reflect a lack of appreciation for your service and sacrifice in efforts to treat and end the [Ebola] epidemic."

That's true, I suppose. The precautions mostly reflect a group of frightened politicians choosing to value fear rather than science.