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Five Major U.S. Airports Will Screen Passengers from West Africa for Ebola

Update Date: Oct 09, 2014 09:32 AM EDT
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Federal health officials announced on Wednesday that five major United States airports would start screening any passengers coming from West Africa for Ebola. The airport officials will take temperatures and keep an eye out for any signs of an infection.

The five airports include the John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport in New York City, Washington Dulles International in Virginia, O'Hare International in Chicago, IL, Hartsfield-Jackson International in Atlanta, GA, and Newark Liberty International in New Jersey. All of the airports take in 94 percent of the roughly 150 travelers that come everyday from the nations hit hardest by the virus, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. JFK International alone receives about half of all of these daily travelers.

"It's not an effort that will be particularly disruptive to large numbers of people," the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Thomas Frieden said. "As long as Ebola continues to spread in Africa, we can't make the risk zero here. We think it is manageable."

The CDC will be working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Customs & Border Protection. There will be a specific area set aside for the screening process. Passengers who are flying from the three countries will be taken to this area after passport reviews. They will be observed for any signs of the illness and questioned about their health. A medical staff will also be present to take the passengers' temperatures using a non-contact thermometer.

Passengers that do not have any symptoms will be allowed to continue on with their journey. They will receive information about Ebola. Passengers that exhibit signs will be quarantined.

"These measures are really just belt-and-suspenders," President Barack Obama said in a conference call with state and local officials reported by the Wall Street Journal. "It's an added layer of protection on top of the procedures already in place at several airports."

According to Frieden, these safety measures are necessary and a better option than cutting all transportation to the affected nations. He stated that aid workers might be discouraged to go and help out if they believed that they could not return home. Without aid workers, the global effort to contain Ebola could be severely jeopardized.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that so far, there have been roughly 8,000 cases of Ebola with about 3,880 deaths within the three countries.

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