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DHS and CDC release details on Ebola screening at airports

The Department of Homeland Security and the Centers for Disease Control have issued a joint press release and related fact sheet this afternoon that provides key details as to how the screening for Ebola at international arrival areas in airports will work. The release describes how Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and CDC will work together to carry out this screening. From the release:

CDC is sending additional staff to each of the five airports. After passport review:

  • Travelers from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone will be escorted by CBP to an area of the airport set aside for screening.
  • Trained CBP staff will observe them for signs of illness, ask them a series of health and exposure questions and provide health information for Ebola and reminders to monitor themselves for symptoms. Trained medical staff will take their temperature with a non-contact thermometer.
  • If the travelers have fever, symptoms or the health questionnaire reveals possible Ebola exposure, they will be evaluated by a CDC quarantine station public health officer. The public health officer will again take a temperature reading and make a public health assessment. Travelers, who after this assessment, are determined to require further evaluation or monitoring will be referred to the appropriate public health authority.
  • Travelers from these countries who have neither symptoms/fever nor a known history of exposure will receive health information for self-monitoring.

Given the fact that the number of travelers from these countries is a very small percentage of total inbound travel to the United States, this is likely to be a manageable set of procedures for CBP and CDC, with little disruption to the overall process of clearing travelers through immigration and customs. But these efforts will need to be undertaken carefully, particularly with respect to building and ensuring public confidence in the processes, and could become more challenging if the number of high-risk countries increases in the coming weeks and months.