- Fears ‘it will be impossible’ to stop Ebola outbreak (0:45)
Fears ‘it will be impossible’ to stop Ebola outbreak as death toll climbs
NZ ready in case of Ebola – minister
US customs and health officials have begun taking the temperatures of passengers arriving at New York’s Kennedy International Airport from three West African countries in a stepped-up screening effort meant to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus.
Federal health officials said the entry screenings, which will expand to four additional US airports in the next week, add another layer of protection to halt the spread of a disease that has killed more than 4,000 people.
“Already 100% of the travellers leaving the three infected countries are being screened on exit. Sometimes multiple times temperatures are checked along that process,” Dr Martin Cetron, director of the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine for the federal Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, said at a briefing at Kennedy.
Cetron added, “No matter how many procedures are put into place, we can’t get the risk to zero.”
The screening will be expanded over the next week to four other airports: New Jersey’s Newark Liberty, Washington Dulles, Chicago O’Hare and Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta.
Customs officials say about 150 people travel daily from or through Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea to the United States, and nearly 95% of them land first at one of the five airports.
There are no direct flights to the US from the three countries, but Homeland Security officials said last week they can track passengers back to where their trips began, even if they make several stops. Airlines from Morocco, France and Belgium are still flying in and out of West Africa.
Public health workers use no-touch thermometers to take the temperatures of the travellers from the three Ebola-ravaged countries; those who have a fever will be interviewed to determine whether they may have had contact with someone infected with Ebola. There are quarantine areas at each of the five airports that can be used if necessary.
President Barack Obama said that the new screening measures are “really just belt and suspenders” to support protections already in place. Border Patrol agents already look for people who are obviously ill, as do flight crews.