Thursday, October 9, 2014

U.S. to add temperature screenings at five airports to combat Ebola

Security checks at five U.S. airports will include temperature screenings of passengers arriving from West Africa as early as this weekend in an effort to combat the Ebola outbreak.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Homeland Security's Customs & Border Protection (CBP) announced Oct. 8 that security screenings at the airports, which together handle approximately 90 percent of passengers arriving from Africa, will affect passengers arriving from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the three countries hardest hit by the epidemic. Extra security measures will include taking passengers’ temperatures using a non-contact thermometer and requiring them to fill out a questionnaire after deplaning.

The additional measures will be instituted at John F. Kennedy International (JFK) in New York, Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) in New Jersey, Dulles International Airport (IAD) in suburban Washington, O’Hare Airport (ORD) in Chicago, and Hartsfield-Jackson International (ATL) in Atlanta. Personnel from the CDC will conduct the screenings.

The screenings mark a shift in administration policy. Last week, CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden questioned the wisdom of taking temperatures of passengers arriving from Africa and said that the result would be a great number of “false positives” from people who had fevers because of illnesses other than Ebola.

The announcement of additional measures follows closely the death of 42-year-old Thomas Eric Duncan of Liberia, who died of the illness Oct. 8 at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. According to a report on National Public Radio (NPR), Duncan may have contracted the disease in Liberia when he carried a pregnant woman who was sick with Ebola into her house after no clinic would admit her. Health officials point out that the virus can only be spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of someone who is already sick.

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