Passengers arriving at JFK from West Africa screened for Ebola

Brooklyn Currents | 10/12/2014 | 0 comments


Travelers arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport coming from West Africa are undergoing extra screening as part of an effort to stop the spread of the Ebola virus.

Public health workers with no-touch thermometers began taking the temperatures of passengers coming in from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea on Saturday, Oct. 11.

Those who have a fever will be interviewed to determine whether they have had contact with someone who has Ebola.

Health officials say they expect there to be  false alarms from travelers who have fever from other illnesses, but they stress that  the precautions are necessary.

"Protecting Americans is our number one priority, and we want to make sure the work we do as we add these additional layers have impact, and we're committed to evaluating how they work and making improvements along the way," said Dr. Martin Cetron, director of the CDC's Division of Global Migration and Quarantine.

CDC officials and U.S. Customs and Border Protection say the multi-layered approach is designed to find people traveling from the three countries even if they have had a layover somewhere else.

"When you present your passport to customs, is it from one of the three affected countries? Are there stamps in the passport? And then you ask questions in particular like, Have you visited one of the three affected countries?" said U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske.

Passengers who spoke with NY1 outside JFK were not all convinced the new screening would help.

"It's all lipstick so to say, it makes it look good but it's not really going be that effective," said one passenger.

"I don't think it will do all that much. I think that the world's too connected. Too many people are flying to different places  where maybe there's no screening," said another passenger.

This initiative will expand to four other airports, including Newark, over the next week.

Quarantine areas will be available at each airport.

                                 --  From NY 1

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From CNN

Only about 150 travelers a day will receive the screenings, CDC officials said.

"No matter how many of these procedures are put into place, we can't get the risk to zero," Dr. Cetron  told reporters on  Saturday.

"That will not be the case but this additional layer should add a measure of security to the American public. This entry screening procedure, for example, would not necessarily have caught the patient in Dallas."

Cetron was referring to the only case of Ebola so far diagnosed on U.S. soil -- that of Thomas Eric Duncan, who didn't have symptoms at the time he arrived in the United States.

Under the program, passengers originating from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone will be subject to the additional screening.

Coast Guard corpsmen and eventually medical workers under contract will take the passengers' temperature and Customs and Border Protection staffers will ask questions about their health and possible exposure to Ebola.

Those suspected of possible Ebola exposure will be referred to a CDC public health officer for additional screening.

After the initial run Saturday at JFK, the testing will expand Thursday to Washington-Dulles, Newark, Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.

The five airports, JFK included, receive 94% of air travelers who come from the afflicted countries, according to the CDC.

"The expanded screening measures provide this layer of protection to the already established protocols to minimize the risk of another case of Ebola here in the United States," said R. Gil Kerlikowske, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Kerlikowske said travelers with fever or other symptoms or who may have been exposed to Ebola will be referred to the CDC to determine whether they can travel or should be taken to a hospital. In addition, Border Patrol agents will monitor travelers for signs of illness.

Cetron said all travelers leaving the affected countries are already being screened with questionnaires about possible exposure and symptoms and having their temperatures checked.

"More than 36,000 passengers have been screened with this tool the last two months and not a single Ebola case has been detected," he said.



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