New York – New York’s JFK airport began strict new health
screenings Saturday for travelers arriving from Ebola-hit
West African nations, amid growing US fears about importing
the deadly virus.
John F. Kennedy International was the first of five airports to
introduce the tougher measures, meant to provide a layer of
protection in a nation jittery over fresh cases of the illness
after the first patient diagnosed on US soil with Ebola died
A spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) told AFP that Customs and Border
Protection agents had met planes arriving at JFK with
passengers to be checked.
Four other airports — Newark, Chicago’s O’Hare, Washington
Dulles and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International — are
due to start the checks next week.
Together, the airports account for 94 percent of all travelers
coming into the United States from Guinea, Liberia and
Sierra Leone, the countries hardest-hit by the epidemic that
has killed more than 4,000 people.
Passengers arriving at any of the five airports from those
countries will have their temperatures taken, be assessed
for signs of illness and answer questions about their health
and exposure history.
Some could be barred from traveling further or referred to
nearby hospitals if necessary.
“If the traveler has a fever or other symptoms or has been
exposed to Ebola, Customs and Border Protection will refer
that traveler to the Centers for Disease Control for a public
health assessment,” CBP chief Gil Kerlikowske told reporters
at JFK airport, one of the busiest in the United States.
He said passengers suspected of serious illness could be
issued “Do Not Board” notifications.
The travel ban could be applied to “individuals considered
infected with a highly contagious disease… and (who) should
be prevented from traveling on international aircraft,” he
Although the health checks provide an enhanced layer of
protection, the CDC cautioned that screenings are not
The screenings were not expected to clog arrival terminals,
with only about 150 passengers per day set to be examined
at all ports of entry, CDC Director Tom Frieden told CNN.
Around half of arrivals from the three West African countries
pass though JFK airport.
– More airports to follow –
The scaled-up measures were put in place after the death on
Wednesday of Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person
diagnosed with Ebola outside Africa. The Liberian man died
in a Texas hospital after being given an experimental drug.
His case sparked panic about the possible spread of the
deadly virus in the United States, though President Barack
Obama said the chances of a US Ebola outbreak were
Ebola is transmitted by close contact with the bodily fluids of
an infected person.
The incubation period for the disease is two to 21 days,
during which carriers may not present Ebola symptoms such
as fever, vomiting and diarrhea.
Five Americans have returned from West Africa for
treatment of Ebola infection, including three Christian
missionaries who got sick in Liberia and have since
A sixth US citizen, Patrick Sawyer, who held dual Liberian-
American nationality, died of Ebola in July after traveling by
plane from Liberia to Nigeria.