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Ebola fears are interfering with the world's premier scientific meeting on tropical diseases. Today, Louisiana state health officials asked anyone who has traveled to Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea in the past 21 days, or has treated Ebola patients elsewhere, to stay away from the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH), which begins on Sunday in New Orleans.
"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 letter says.
Louisiana's new policy goes further than guidelines from CDC; it is the latest example, after New York and New Jersey, of a state deciding to impose restrictions that many scientists say make little sense.
"I'm very upset. And that's an understatement," says Piero Olliaro, a tropical diseases expert at WHO and a visiting professor at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, who learned this afternoon that he can't travel to New Orleans. Olliaro returned from Guinea on 22 October, where he had been scouting for sites to do clinical trials of candidate Ebola drugs. At the ASTMH meeting, he was scheduled to co-chair a session, give two talks, and present six posters. He says he's scrambling to find people to replace him.
The incinerated belongings of Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan were bound for a Louisiana hazardous waste landfill — until the state's attorney general, Buddy Caldwell, raised concerns that the ashes could pose a danger to Louisiana's population.
Caldwell's office said in an e-mailed statement Monday afternoon that a Louisiana judge granted its request for a temporary restraining order blocking the transportation of Duncan's belongings into the state from Texas, where they were destroyed.
Despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines saying that "Ebola-associated waste that has been appropriately inactivated or incinerated is no longer infectious," Caldwell said in an earlier statement that "there are too many unknowns at this point" for the ashes of Duncan's belongings to cross into his state.