Feds Watch Airline Passengers For Ebola Symptoms - New York News

Feds Watch Airline Passengers For Ebola Symptoms

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(FOX 11 / AP) Federal agents at U.S. airports are watching travelers from Africa for flu-like symptoms that could be tied to the recent Ebola outbreak, as delegations from some 50 countries arrive in the nation's capital for a leadership summit this week.

Border patrol agents at Washington's Dulles International and New York's JFK airports in particular have been told to ask travelers about possible exposure to the virus and to be on the lookout for anyone with a fever, headache, achiness, sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, rash or red eyes. Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, which will receive several African heads of state, is screening passengers too, while U.S. Secret Service agents in charge of security for the three-day summit have been briefed on what to look for and how to respond, officials said Monday.

If a passenger is suspected of carrying the deadly virus, they would be quarantined immediately and evaluated by medical personnel, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which provided the additional training to local airports.

"There is always the possibility that someone with an infectious disease can enter the United States," CDC spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds said Monday. "The public health concern is whether it would spread, and, if so, how quickly.'"

The Ebola virus causes a hemorrhagic fever that has stricken more than 1,600 people, killing at least 887 of them in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. The virus is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids, such as blood or urine, unlike an airborne virus like influenza or the common cold. A person exposed to the virus can take up to 21 days to exhibit any symptoms, making it possible for infected travelers to enter the U.S. without knowing they have it.

While the CDC says it is not screening passengers boarding planes at African airports - the job of local authorities there - the center said it has encouraged vulnerable countries to follow certain precautions. Outbound passengers in the countries experiencing Ebola are being screened for fevers and with health questionnaires, Reynolds said.

Health officials say the threat to Americans remains relatively small, even with the uptick in travel this week between Africa and the United States. In the past decade, five people have entered the U.S. known to have a viral hemorrhagic fever, including a case last March of a Minnesota man diagnosed with Lassa Fever after traveling to West Africa.

Reynolds said in all five instances, U.S. officials were able to contain the illness.

A vaccine against Ebola has been successfully tested with monkeys, and there is hope it could become available as early as next July, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health told "CBS This Morning" on Monday.


As the Ebola outbreak in West Africa grows, airlines around the globe are closely monitoring the situation but have yet to make any drastic changes. Below are some key questions about the disease, what airlines are doing and how safe it is to fly.

Q: Why are airlines concerned?

A: Airlines quickly take passengers from one part of the globe to another. With some germs, one sick passenger on a plane could theoretically infect hundreds of people who are connecting to flights to dozens of other countries. Health and airline officials note, however, that Ebola only spreads through direct contact. Outbreaks of diseases that can spread through the air, such as the flu and severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, are more problematic for airlines.

Q: Should people travel to West Africa?

A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday issued a warning for Americans to avoid nonessential travel to the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

Q: Is Ebola deadly?

A: Very much so. If contracted, there is no vaccine and no specific treatment. The World Health Organization estimated Monday that there have been 887 deaths from the current Ebola outbreak. That translates to a fatality rate of about 60 percent.

Q: How is Ebola transmitted?

A: The virus only spreads through direct contact with the blood or fluids of an infected person, according to the CDC. It can also be spread through objects, such as needles, that have been contaminated with infected fluids. No airborne transmission has been documented.

Q: Do U.S. airlines fly to West Africa?

A: Delta Air Lines flies to Dakar, Senegal; Accra, Ghana and Lagos, Nigeria. The airline also flies to Monrovia, Liberia, but for unrelated business reasons previously announced it will cancel that service at the end of September. Delta is letting passengers with flights to the region in the next two weeks push back travel until the end of the month. United Airlines also flies to Lagos, but has not issued any travel waiver. American Airlines does not fly to Africa.

Q: What are U.S. airlines saying about it?

A: There have been no flight cancelations. All three airlines said they are in regular communication with government agencies and health officials and will follow their recommendations.

Q: What about airlines from other countries?

A: European carriers such as Air France-KLM, British Airways and Lufthansa all fly to Western Africa from their hubs in Paris, Amsterdam, London and Frankfurt.

British Airways announced Tuesday that it is suspending flights to and from Liberia and Sierra Leone until Aug. 31 "due to the deteriorating public health situation in both countries." Passengers with tickets can request a full refund or a flight at a later date.

Lufthansa notes that "there is no risk of getting infected by the Ebola virus via air circulation during flight." Crews on Brussels Airlines flights have access to special thermoscans to check passengers' temperature, if they feel it's necessary. The only other airline, so far, to cancel any flights is the Middle East airline Emirates. It has suspended its service to Conakry, Guinea, until further notice. It is still flying to Dakar.

 

From Bob DeCastro:

The Centers for Disease Control has issued an advisory against non-essential travel to West African countries dealing with the Ebola virus outbreak. However, there are airlines that travel to the affected region. US officials, airports, and commercial airlines are taking extra precautions.

LAX is one of 20 airports across the country with special screening and quarantine stations. It is staffed with CDC and Border Patrol agents 24/7. They are trained to spot travelers with symptoms of Ebola. Anyone who arrives from an affected country and exhibits symptoms, along with anyone who came in direct contact with that person, will be isolated, rushed to the hospital, and treated.

Los Angeles County Public Health Director Dr. Jonathan Fielding says several local hospitals are prepared to handle cases of Ebola. Dr. Fielding says the biggest concern is for patients that have arrived from West Africa over the past 2 to 21 days. That's the incubation period in which an infected person may not exhibit symptoms.

He also says is important to remember Ebola is not airborne like the flu. The virus must pass directly from person to person. Unlike the affected West African nations, the US has good hospitals and good infection control.

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