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If you're a scientist working on diseases like malaria, dengue fever or Ebola, you want to be in New Orleans this weekend. That's where the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene convention is being held. But researchers who have recently been to Ebola-infected parts of West Africa are being told show up, and you'll be quarantined. NPR's Jason Beaubien has the story.
JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: This convention is sort of the Detroit Auto Show for infectious disease researchers. This year, the keynote speaker is Bill Gates in his role as a global health juggernaut. Piero Olliaro had big plans for the conference.
PIERO OLLIARO: This is the place to be. It's once a year. This is where you get to meet all the others. Yeah.
BEAUBIEN: Olliaro is a researcher at Oxford University. He specializes in setting up clinical drug trials in the developing world. He was going to present several papers on his recent research involving treatments for malaria and river blindness. But two weeks ago, he was in Guinea, scouting a site to test a new Ebola medication. Olliaro got a letter yesterday from the Louisiana Health Department saying he quote, "should not travel to New Orleans to attend the conference." The policy applies to anyone who'd visited Sierra Leone, Guinea or Liberia over the last 21 days. The letter goes on to say, quote, "we see no utility in you traveling to New Orleans simply to be confined to your room." Olliaro, who's currently in England, says the decision is unfair, unwarranted and, he says, not based on medical science. But he'll abide by it.
OLLIARO: I have no intention of spending weeks in a hotel room somewhere in New Orleans. New Orleans is a very nice place but certainly not seen from a hotel room in isolation.
BEAUBIEN: Olliaro says the problem is much larger than just this one convention. The world's leading tropical disease researchers often fly back and forth from Africa to their labs in the United States. The new patchwork of Ebola-related travel bans and quarantine policies, Olliaro says, makes it unclear whether they'll be able to continue to do that. And that could ultimately undermine research into a vaccine or cure for this terrifying viral disease. Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.