Officials to Monitor West African Travelers for Ebola After US Arrival

Ebola screening for fever to begin at 5 US airports that receive flights from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) As the Ebola outbreak rages on in West Africa, US health officials are taking measures to keep the virus from spreading in the US. One such measure will be screening airline passengers for signs of Ebola.

Update (10/23/2014): In Connecticut, a family of six West African travelers has been placed in quarantine after arriving in the US Oct. 18, reports Reuters. The family is thought to have been exposed to Ebola, although it is unclear where in West Africa they came from. Officials will monitor them for 21 days — the incubation period for Ebola. If patients exposed to the virus do not show symptoms within 21 days, they do not likely have the virus.

Update (10/22/2014): The CDC announced that public health officials will start active post-arrival monitoring of travelers who have come from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea — the three West African countries hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak. Active post-arrival monitoring means that travelers from these countries who arrive in the US without fever or other Ebola symptoms will be followed up by state and local health departments for 21 days from the date that they left West Africa. The 21-day window is the incubation period for Ebola. That means that a person who does not show symptoms within 21 days of coming into contact with the virus is not likely to have the disease.

Travelers from the three West African countries affected by Ebola can enter the US only through five airports. Those five US airports include John F. Kennedy International in New York, O'Hare International in Chicago, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, Washington Dulles International near Washington, D.C., and Newark Liberty International in Newark, NJ. New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Georgia have already taken steps to start active post-arrival monitoring scheduled to begin on Monday, Oct. 27. Other states will start such monitoring soon after. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials announced Oct. 8 that they would begin screening passengers arriving at five US airports for raised temperatures — an early sign of Ebola.

The screenings will take place at airports that receive the majority of incoming flights from West Africa.

"By doing enhanced entry screening at 5 U.S. airports, we will evaluate over 94 percent of travelers from the affected countries," the CDC stated in a report. "Our staff at all airports remain trained and ready to respond to any reports of ill travelers, and our robust public health system is prepared to respond and assist."

The "affected countries" are Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. People who have traveled through those countries will have their temperature taken and receive information about Ebola, as well as fill out a survey. Health officials will also observe passengers for other signs of the virus.

Ebola is the virus that causes Ebola virus disease — the often fatal disease that has killed nearly 4,000 people in West Africa and one man in the US in the current outbreak. Symptoms include high fever, nausea, vomiting and unexplained bleeding.

The five airports that will begin the screenings are Kennedy International, Washington Dulles International, O'Hare International, Hartsfield-Jackson International and Newark Liberty International airports. Screenings could begin as soon as this weekend, the CDC said.

The new screening measure comes after a Liberian man was treated for Ebola in Dallas, TX. After being put in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, Thomas Eric Duncan died Oct. 8.

"We work to continuously increase the safety of Americans," CDC Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden told The New York Times. "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."

To implement the new measures, the CDC and Coast Guard will send people to conduct the screenings. Anyone found to have Ebola symptoms will be screened further and possibly quarantined.

Review Date: 
October 9, 2014
Last Updated:
October 23, 2014