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House leader on foreign affairs wants the U.S. to shut down visa applications in West Africa

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry steps out from his plane as he arrives at Vienna International Airport in Vienna, Austria, Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, Pool) AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, Pool

The point man for foreign affairs issues in the House on Wednesday became the latest member of Congress to call for a ban on anyone traveling from Ebola-ravaged countries in West Africa.

In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) pointed out that Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are still processing visas for non-U.S. nationals to travel to the United States, and called on Kerry to suspend that visa service as long as the Ebola outbreak is not contained.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has been asked to stop visa applications for people from West African countries with Ebola. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, Pool)

"I would strongly encourage the Department of Sate to immediately institute a temporary suspension of consular services — particularly the issuance of visas — for non-U.S. nationals in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone," he wrote.

Centers for Disease Control officials have said repeatedly that they don't want any ban on travel, since a ban might make it harder for U.S. aid to reach those countries. But Royce cast his proposal as one that wouldn't affect U.S. efforts to send aid to the three countries.

"This is a reasonable and immediately implementable containment measure that may help mitigate the risk of further translocation to the United States, while not impeding the U.S. response to the epidemic," he said.

Royce said his understanding is that 100 or so people apply for U.S. visas in the three countries every day, and are free to travel to the United States. "Given the critical need to contain this disease at its source, I was surprised that the Department of State had not already exercised its authority to suspend consular services," he wrote.

Support for some kind of travel ban has grown every day since the first diagnosis of Ebola in the United States. While there are no direct flights from the three countries to the United States, Royce's idea could be a middle-ground proposal that gains traction over the coming days and weeks.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) also called for some kind of visa restriction on travelers from countries experiencing an Ebola outbreak.

"A temporary ban on travel to the United States from countries afflicted with the virus is something that the president should absolutely consider along with any other appropriate actions as doubts about the security of our air travel systems grow," Boehner said.

The spread of Ebola spooked airline stocks on Wednesday, over concern that people may stop flying given the uncertainty surrounding the crisis.

However, the Obama administration as of late Wednesday continued to say that a travel ban would not be considered.

Read Royce's letter here:

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