Both the U.K. and U.S. are beginning airport health checks in earnest, after two nurses working in the U.S. and in Europe contracted the disease on home soil
London’s mayor said Sunday there is “little doubt” of Ebola reaching the U.K., adding that any government “promises” to the contrary don’t “really make any sense.”
In a television interview, London Mayor Boris Johnson told the BBC that British airport screenings for the virus are “far from a perfect solution” for safeguarding the U.K. The screenings will home in on arrivals from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone and will include questions about passengers’ recent travels, plus a “possible medical assessment,” the BBC says.
“I have little doubt that eventually there will be a case of Ebola in this country and probably this city,” Johnson told the BBC.
The Guardian reports that British officials had at first shied away from instituting health checks at U.K. airports but changed their minds after a Spanish nurse treating two missionaries ill with Ebola in Madrid became the first person to contract the virus on European soil.
Meanwhile, the U.S. over the weekend began screening airline passengers entering the nation through JFK airport, also singling out arrivals from the three African countries weathering the epidemic the hardest, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Passengers with passport information indicating recent visits to those countries (there are no direct flights between them and the U.S.) will undergo temperature checks, consultations with disease-control officials, and, if warranted, possible isolation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
Four other U.S. international airports — Washington Dulles, Newark Liberty, Chicago O’Hare and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta — will also begin screenings this week. About 94% of passengers who arrive in country from the above trio of West African nations pass through those five American airports, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Even so, public-health officials in both the U.S. and U.K. have cautioned against putting too much faith in the screenings, which they say are not foolproof.
The bi-continental airport screenings follow a Liberian man’s death from Ebola in Dallas on Wednesday, after he flew into the U.S. from his homeland last month. The patient, Thomas Duncan, did not yet have Ebola symptoms at the time. A Dallas nurse who treated Duncan has since become the first reported case of Ebola contracted within U.S. borders.
Johnson, the London mayor, told the BBC that the U.K.’s best shot at managing Ebola is advanced preparation for handling a case there.
“All I can tell you is that to the best of my knowledge … we have fantastic preparations in London for this,” he said. We have very good health care in this city, considerably better, alas, than they have in Africa.”