- by Carolyne Volpe Curley / Carolyne@WestEssexNOW.com
Airports with Enhanced Ebola Screening
The following five airports will be implementing enhanced Ebola screening because more than 94% of West African travelers arrive in the US through their locations:
- Chicago O'Hare International Airport, IL
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, GA
- John F. Kennedy International Airport, NY
- Newark Liberty International Airport, NJ
- Washington Dulles International Airport, VA
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs & Border Protection (CBP) will oversee the screenings for passengers arriving from the Ebola-affected nations of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
West African Outbound Screening
Before passengers are allowed to board airplanes in the Ebola-affected nations, they are asked to respond to a travel health questionnaire assessing their likely exposure to the virus and they are also visually assessed for potential illness while their body temperature is taken.
Since August when exit screening began in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, of the 36,000 people who were screened, 77 of them were denied fight-boarding due to health concerns. However, none of the 77 passengers were diagnosed with Ebola but were instead diagnosed with malaria, a disease common in West Africa, transmitted by mosquitoes and not contagious from one person to another.
Exit screening at airports in countries affected by Ebola remains the principal means of keeping travelers from spreading Ebola to other nations. All three of these nations continue to receive CDC assistance in strengthening their exit screening.
“We work to continuously increase the safety of Americans,”
said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.
“We believe these new measures will further protect the health of Americans, understanding that nothing we can do will get us to absolute zero risk
until we end the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.”
The CDC is sending additional staff to each of the five airports. After passport review will occur:
- Travelers from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone will be escorted by Homeland Security to an area of the airport set aside for screening.
- Trained Homeland Security staff will observe those passengers for signs of illness, ask them a series of health and exposure questions and provide health information for Ebola and reminders to monitor themselves for symptoms. Trained medical staff will take their temperature with a non-contact thermometer.
- If the travelers have fever, symptoms or if the health questionnaire reveals possible Ebola exposure, they will be evaluated by a CDC quarantine station public health officer. The public health officer will again take a temperature reading and make a public health assessment. Travelers, who after this assessment, are determined to require further evaluation or monitoring will be referred to the appropriate public health authority.
- Travelers from these countries who have neither symptoms/fever nor a known history of exposure will receive health information for self-monitoring.
“Homeland Security personnel will continue to observe all travelers
entering the United States for general overt signs of illnesses
at all U.S. ports of entry and these expanded screening measures
will provide an additional layer of protection
to help ensure the risk of Ebola in the United States is minimized,”
said Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson.
“CBP, working closely with CDC, will continue to assess the risk
of the spread of Ebola into the United States,
and take additional measures, as necessary, to protect the American people.”
The CDC reports that US entry screening is part of a layered process that includes international exit screening and standard public health practices such as patient isolation and contact tracing in countries with Ebola outbreaks. Successful containment of the recent Ebola outbreak in Nigeria demonstrates the effectiveness of this approach. The CDC has worked closely with West African authorities to implement these measures.
Since the beginning of August, the CDC has been working with airlines, airports, ministries of health, and other partners to provide technical assistance for the development of exit screening and travel restrictions in countries affected by Ebola. This includes:
- Assessing the capacity to conduct exit screening at international airports
- Assisting countries with procuring supplies needed to conduct exit screening
- Supporting with development of exit screening protocols
- Developing tools such as posters, screening forms, and job-aids
- Training staff on exit screening protocols and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)