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State Department dismisses Ebola travel ban, says world must 'engage' with West Africa

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 2 : US State Department spokesperson Jennifer Psaki speaks to journalists at a daily briefing in Washington, United States on October 2, 2014. Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

A State Department spokeswoman on Friday rejected the idea of imposing a travel ban on West African countries with the Ebola virus, and said it's important to ensure that the U.S. and other countries continue to "engage" with those nations.

"It actually would be counterproductive, in our view, to put that type of limitation on people," Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on the idea of a flight ban. "It remains essential that the world community engage in order to help the effected countries address and contain this ongoing health crisis."

State Department spokesperson Jennifer Psaki said Friday that the world needs to engage with West African countries suffering from Ebola, and rejected the idea of a ban on flights from those countries to the United States. Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

While some have said a travel ban should be imposed because of uncertainties about the spread of the disease in the United States, Psaki said a ban would prevent doctors from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone from traveling to the United States to receive training on how to deal with the virus. She said some doctors would soon be arriving in the U.S. for that purpose.

"Some nationals of all three Ebola-affected countries are now or will soon be traveling to the United States for training on how to treat Ebola patients," she said.

Psaki was asked Friday why it makes sense to bring doctors from Ebola-stricken countries to the U.S. for training when there's a risk they might be infected. But Psaki didn't answer that question.

Psaki's comments come in a week that has the U.S. doctors and policymakers on edge as they assess how far Ebola might be able to spread within the United States after a man was diagnosed with the virus in Dallas. Doctors are monitoring about 100 people that man may have infected, and there have been scares that people in Hawaii and Washington DC may also have the virus.

Those uncertainties have led some to call for a flight ban, but the Obama administration has said it could only continue to screen people on flights before they board for the United States. Earlier this week, the White house said it was asking pilots and flight attendants to help monitor people.

In the meantime, Psaki said five Americans have now been diagnosed with Ebola and contracted it while in West Africa, and one more American who is at high-risk of contracting it.

"The State Department has facilitated the medical evacuation of five U.S. citizens with confirmed cases of Ebola to the United States, and one citizen with a high-risk exposure," Psaki told reporters.

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