Five of America’s biggest, busiest airports will soon implement new steps to guard against Ebola, requiring travelers arriving from the hardest-hit West African nations to go through an additional layer of screening aimed at detecting anyone who might have the deadly virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the enhanced Ebola-protection policy Wednesday, affecting those travelers coming into the United States from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone — countries where the vast majority of current Ebola cases are.
According to the CDC, more than 94 percent of the travelers from those countries enter the United States through five airports: New York’s John F. Kennedy, Washington-Dulles outside the nation’s capital, Newark in northern New Jersey, O’Hare in Chicago and Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson.
That’s why the additional screening will be focused there, starting Saturday at Kennedy airport, which the CDC says has been the landing spot for nearly half of all travelers from the three West African nations between July 2013 and July 2014.
The program will be expanded to include the four other airports next week.
Customs and Border Protection — the agency charged with safeguarding U.S. borders and airports — will take the lead in the new effort.
Its officers will escort travelers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to a separate area then ask them questions about their health and possible exposure to Ebola.
A non-contact thermometer, placed over their forehead, will be used to take the travelers’ temperature; fever is one of the symptoms of Ebola.
If there are any red flags, such as the person has a high temperature or there’s something on health questionnaire that suggests they might have been exposed to the virus, the traveler will then be evaluated by a CDC public health officer on site.
If there are no concerns, the person is free to leave — though not empty-handed.
According to the CDC, they will be given information about how to monitor themselves for possible symptoms, will be asked to log their temperature daily and be asked to provide their contact information to authorities.
Wednesday’s announcement comes the same day as the death of Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States.
Duncan traveled from Liberia, via Belgium, before arriving in Texas on September 20.
Officials said it’s not likely the stepped-up screening would have affected Duncan, who appeared not to show signs of the virus until a few days after his arrival.