Samantha Power: U.S. intervention helping Ebola fight in West Africa

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said Sunday that there are "positive signs" in all three Ebola-stricken nations in West Africa as the U.S. military and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) get more involved in the fight to curb the disease.

In an interview on "Face the Nation" Sunday, Power - who recently traveled to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - said that a significant increase in safe burial practices will help bring down the rates of infection. Safe burial practices are being observed at a rate of 90 percent in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, and close to 100 percent in Sierra Leone, she said.

"CDC thinks that around half to 70 percent of the infections may well come from unsafe burial. So you could imagine what a difference that could start to make here you know just in a matter of days or weeks," Power said. "And the rate of improvement in safe burial came over a four- or five-day period just because of the injection of command and control, frankly, by the United States and by the British and the Sierra Leonean context."

She said the head of the U.N. operation in the region told her that, "wherever we have an Ebola treatment unit, a lab and social mobilization - infection rates are coming way down, where we don't, they're not. It's that simple."

Power confirmed once again that she has been monitoring herself for any potential signs of Ebola since she returned Thursday in accordance with New York State guidelines. She said she wasn't apprehensive about the trip because it had been vetted by the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services, but that her family was understandably nervous.

"Even though they also know the science the question looms in everyone's head and you just can't help that's what makes us human," she said. "Even in my own family where I have educated everybody about what Ebola is and what it isn't people have questions and that is, again, very understandable."

The debate about how the U.S. should protect its citizens from the disease has continued as health care workers have returned from fighting Ebola in West Africa, including the case of a Maine nurse, Kaci Hickox, who has been fighting against state-imposed quarantines she said are not based on science.

Limit elective travel from West Africa to curb Ebola spread, Sen. Rand Paul says

Many U.S. lawmakers have called for an all-out travel ban or visa restrictions, and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, said in a separate "Face the Nation" interview Sunday that the U.S. should ban all non-essential travel to and from the region, while still allowing health care workers to go to Africa to help in the fight.

The American public "sees people getting it who are fully masked and gowned and saying, 'My goodness, I don't think anybody should be riding on a bus or coming from Liberia to visit their aunt or uncle when they could be contagious,'" Paul said, advocating for a temporary ban on elective travel. He cited previous examples of the government banning people who had disease like polio.

"What I'm looking at is not a stopping of sending humanitarian aid to them or workers to them. What I'm saying is elective travel - commercial travel for people who just want to visit the United States - that really isn't a necessity. And we can wait a few months on it. And it would make our problem a lot less if we were only thinking about health care workers coming back," he added.

He called health care workers who travel to the region "real heroes" and said they "deserve a great deal of respect and admiration."

On Friday, Canada joined Australia as the second nation to suspend entry visas for people from Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa, a move U.S. officials have resisted.

"We have no philosophical objections to dealing with visa issues, with travel issues if we think it would keep the American people safe, but we think the better way is to actually increase the traffic into these countries of health professionals and people who can actually help with the response," Power said Sunday. She said there was no evidence that the ban on visas from Canada would increase the flow of West Africans trying to come to the U.S.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for