CDC Announces Enhanced Ebola Screening at Five U.S. Airports

Ebola Virus

Amid mounting Ebola fears, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Homeland Security's Customs & Border Protection (CBP) will begin implementing additional security screening at five U.S. airports this week, the CDC announced yesterday.

The airports -- JFK International Airport in New York; Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC; Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, NJ; O'Hare International Airport in Chicago; and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta -- collectively receive over 94 percent of travelers from the Ebola-affected nations of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

"We work to continuously increase the safety of Americans," CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., said in a statement. "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."

At the five targeted airports, CDC and CBP will perform the following enhanced security measures after passport review:

• Travelers from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone will be escorted by CBP to an area of the airport set aside for screening.

• Trained CBP staff will observe them 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 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.

"CBP 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 Homeland Security Secretary 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 new security measures will commence Saturday at JFK, and next week at the remaining four airports.

U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow has praised the federal government for not instituting travel bans to and from Africa. "The Obama Administration's Ebola response has thus far been thoughtful and measured, and has resisted the temptation for draconian overreaction. Relevant agencies across the federal government deserve praise for the responsible, deliberative approach they have brought to this high-profile problem," Dow said. "As always, the travel community stands ready to partner with authorities in whatever ways are helpful and appropriate to keep the traveling public safe and informed. Without safety and security, there can be no travel, and that would be an unacceptable outcome for the American way of life."

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