Ebola outbreak: Five US airports begin screening travellers from West African countries for virus

JFK airport in New York will start checking the temperatures of passengers from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone from today, while four more will do so from next week

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The Independent US

John F Kennedy airport will be the first of five American airports to begin screening passengers for symptoms of Ebola, as Britain undertakes a national exercise to test its readiness for an outbreak.

Starting today, airline customers who have stopped in Guinea, Sierra Leone or Liberia before arriving into the international airport in New York will have their temperatures taken by non-contact thermal guns and face questioning over their health and exposure to infected patients.

According to Reuters, those with a fever or relevant symptoms will be referred to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), when a decision will then be made on whether the person needs further observation or isolating.

After arrival, the passengers will be ushered to a dedicated, quarantined part of the airport by customs agents to be checked.

Screenings at four more airports – Newark Liberty, Chicago O'Hare, Washington Dulles and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta – will begin next week.

 

Two thirds of those travelling to the US from one of the three worst-hit countries in western Africa will arrive at one of those five airports.

“We work to continuously increase the safety of Americans,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said, according to the New York Post.

“We believe these new measures will further protect the health of Americans, understanding that nothing we can do will get us to absolute zero risk until we end the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.”

There are expected to be a number of false alarms, as people with standard winter illnesses and fevers are pulled away for safety.

The extra security measures in the US come as Britain stages an eight-hour readiness exercise in unknown locations to test the country’s response to an outbreak.

There had been initial confusion over whether Britain would introduce similar screening procedures at its ports, though Prime Minister David Cameron has since said that upon “medical advice” they will be introduced at Heathrow, Gatwick and Eurostar terminals.

The increased measures come as public concern grows over the likelihood of an outbreak in the West, following the first Ebola-related death in the US and a nurse who was the first person to contract the virulent disease within Europe.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday said that the worldwide death toll had surpassed the 4,000 mark.

Ebola only becomes contagious when symptoms start and it is not airborne, rather it is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids.

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