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Ebola screenings began on Saturday, October 11 at New York’s John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport for travelers coming from the most-affected West African countries, such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, in an effort to curb the spread of the disease in the U.S. JFK is one of five approved pilot sites for the Ebola airport screening program. Other approved sites include Washington Dulles International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Atlanta International Airport, and Newark Liberty International Airport, which will begin their screenings next week.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those five airports account for nearly 95 percent of all the 150 travelers who on average arrive daily from those regions most affected by Ebola. Over the past 12 months, JFK received nearly 50 percent of all the passengers from those countries entering into the U.S.
Each of the most-heavily affected countries screen outbound passengers for symptoms of the life-threatening virus before they fly. Approximately 36,000 people have been screened over the past three months, according to health officials. Of those screened, 77 people were not allowed to fly, but none were ultimately diagnosed with Ebola. Many of those ill passengers were ultimately diagnosed with malaria, the CDC confirmed.
As part of the protocol for the U.S. airport screening program, passengers arriving at the JFK pilot site from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone will be taken to an isolated area of the airport designated for the Ebola screenings. Officials will question each passenger to find out if they have been exposed to the life-threatening virus. Staff will take the passengers’ body temperature and evaluate each traveler for other symptoms of the disease.
If a traveler exhibits symptoms of Ebola or has been exposed to the disease, the CDC will determine whether that person will be allowed to continue their travel, be taken to a hospital for evaluation, or quarantined at a local health department for observation.
Health officials have stressed that air travelers have a very low risk of contracting the disease. Moreover, only individuals who exhibit symptoms can transmit the virus to others. Furthermore, infections are transmitted when there is direct contact with bodily fluids or secretions with a person who has Ebola.
On Saturday, nearly 25 flights with some passengers from the most affected West African regions were expected to land at JFK, according to airport officials. Each of those flights is expected to have about three or four passengers from the affected areas. However, no direct flights from the most affected regions were arriving at JFK on Saturday, according to Port Authority officials. All the passengers from those ravaged regions had connected on flights through European airports, including those in Paris and Brussels.
According to experts, these new measures would not have necessarily detected Ebola in the now-deceased patient, Thomas Eric Duncan of Liberia, who recently arrived in Dallas, TX and subsequently died of the virus a few days later. Duncan was the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the United States and was exposed while overseas.
As part of a pilot site screening program, New York’s JFK International Airport began Ebola passenger screenings on Saturday, October 11 for travelers coming from the most affected West African countries, such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, in an effort to curb the spread of the disease in the U.S. JFK is one of five approved pilot sites for the Ebola airport screening program. The other four approved sites including Washington Dulles International Airport and Chicago O’Hare International Airport will begin their screenings next week.
By Leigh Haugh