Update, October 27, 8:22 pm:

The 5-year old boy being held in isolation at Bellevue Hospital in New York after showing Ebola-like symptoms has tested negative for the disease, according to The Guardian. He will undergo further tests before being released. There is still no report on his nationality, but since his home is in New York, it is probably safe to assume that he is an American. If he were not a USC, one can assume that this fact would be all over the Internet and that certain of our political leaders and pundits would be losing no time in scapegoating all immigrants over this latest turn of events.

Update, October 27, 9:00 am:

According to Reuters and ABC News, a 5-year old boy who returned to the US on Saturday from Guinea with his family is now under observation and in isolation at Bellevue hospital after showing possible symptoms of Ebola, including a 103 degree fever and vomiting. For some inexplicable reason, he has evidently not yet been tested for Ebola and is not under quarantine pending such tests.

His immigration status has not been mentioned in any news reports I have seen. However, since his home is evidently in New York, he may very likely be a US citizen or permanent resident.

If this turns out to be the case, that would be only one more example to show that treating Ebola as an immigration issue, rather than a medical one, is not the way to protect America from this deadly disease. I will update this story as more information becomes available.

My original post follows:

Everyone in America congratulates the two heroic Dallas nurses, Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, on their recovery from Ebola, which they had contracted while caring for the first and hopefully only Ebola patient to die of this disease in America, Liberian citizen Thomas Eric Duncan.

The Dallas Morning News reports on October 24 and October 25 that Nina Pham, the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants who came to America as political refugees, is now back in Texas and able to meet with her dog, Bently, who tested negative for Ebola after being isolated and screened.

Before arriving in Dallas, Nina Pham had met with and received a big hug from President Obama. I watched it on a video, which at one point also appears to show Ms. Pham smoking a cigarette, an activity that has taken thousands of times as many lives as Ebola.

One hopes that having survived Ebola, Nina Pham will continue to safeguard her health in all other respects as well.


In another story, Fortune reports on the steps that Nigeria, a country which has now been officially pronounced clear of Ebola, took to protect itself against the disease, which had claimed eight lives in West Africa's most populous nation. Closing its borders was not among those steps.

The Fortune article listed the following steps that Nigeria had taken to become Ebola free after 20 people in that country had become infected:

Preparing early; Declaring an emergency right away; Training local doctors, Managing fear, Remaining prepared for more patients, and Advocating for more international response.

In addition, Nigeria kept its borders open and did not ban all travel from Ebola infected countries, as some American leaders are urging the US government to do despite warnings from health officials that this would be counterproductive.

Nigeria's decision not to ban all travel from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone was based, according to the Fortune article (also published in Time) on the conclusion that such a travel ban would create more fear and panic, and potentially drive people to come into the country illegally, instead of through legal checkpoints. A Nigerian spokesman mentioned in the article stated that the best way to control an outbreak is through implementing public health strategies, not by closing borders, which would only stifle commercial activities in the countries that are already struggling due to Ebola.


In the light of Nigeria's experience, one has to ask whether certain public figures in the US who are using Ebola to promote an anti-immigrant agenda rather than following the advice of health experts are really concerned with protecting the American people as much as they are with advancing their own careers.

Moreover, the rush in four states, New York, New Jersey, Illinois and, reportedly, either Connecticut or Florida, against the advice of America's top medical officials, to impose 21-day quarantines on US citizen health care workers returning from the three most affected African countries, after an American doctor, Craig Spencer, was diagnosed with Ebola after helping to take care of patients in that area and is now hospitalized in New York City, shows that this deadly virus does not recognize distinctions based on immigration status.

See also, dallasnews.com, Ebola's Hard Lesson: Africa's vulnerabilities are our own (October 26).

Roger Algase is a New York lawyer and graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been serving employment-based and family-based immigration clients from many parts of the world for more than 30-years. His email address is algaselex@gmail.com