Ebola outbreak: UN's Ban Ki-moon warns against quarantining health workers

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is warning against "unnecessarily" strict restrictions on the movement of health workers who have been fighting the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa.

Canada has barred entry for citizens from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, seen here in in Vienna Monday, says the best way to stop Ebola is at its source rather than limiting or restricting the movement of people or trade. (Heinz-Peter Bader/Reuters)

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned on Monday against "unnecessarily" strict restrictions on the movement of health workers who have been fighting the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa.

In some U.S. states officials have imposed quarantines on health professionals returning from three Ebola-ravaged West African countries, but the U.S. federal government opposes such measures.

Canada and Australia have barred entry for citizens from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, where the disease is widespread, and some U.S. politicians have called for a similar ban by the United States.

"The best way to stop this virus is to stop the virus at its source rather than limiting, restricting the movement of people or trade," Ban told a news conference in Vienna. "Particularly when there are some unnecessarily extra restrictions and discriminations against health workers."

"They are extraordinary people who are giving of themselves, they are risking their own lives."

Major international airlines and shipping service lines should continue normal trade, movement and transportation, he said.

Medical experts say Ebola is difficult to catch and is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person and is not transmitted by asymptomatic people.

"Of course, when somebody has a symptom (of Ebola) those people should be immediately treated and supported and evacuated when necessary," Ban said.

A spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada pointed to some differences between Canada's actions and that of the Australian government with respect to visas.

"We have instituted a pause, but there is room for discretion if we can be assured that someone is not infected with Ebola. We have also not cancelled existing visas, but rather are proactively contacting visa holders from the affected countries to validate their contact information, advise on Quarantine Act measures in place at points of entry and reiterate the other measures we have taken to date," the spokesman said in an email.

Meanwhile, a doctor in Sierra Leone has died of Ebola — the fifth local doctor in the West African nation to die of the disease, authorities said Monday.

Dr. Godfrey George, medical superintendent of Kambia Government Hospital in northern Sierra Leone, died overnight, according to Sierra Leone's government.
Doctors and nurses have been particularly vulnerable to contracting Ebola, as the virus is spread through bodily fluids.

The most deadly outbreak of Ebola on record has killed nearly 5,000 people, all but a handful of them in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

The World Health Organization said Monday that Mali currently has no Ebola cases but 39 people are still being sought after sharing public transport with a two-year-old who died from the disease, the country's only case.

A WHO spokeswoman said 108 contacts were being followed up, including 33 health workers, but epidemiologists believe the 39 contacts who have not been traced are at low risk, as they are unlikely to have had physical contact with the sick toddler.

With files from The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News