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White House: Beefed-up Ebola screenings coming to five U.S. airports

From Yahoo! News (source link):

Hours after the first Ebola patient diagnosed on U.S. soil died from the illness, the White House confirmed Wednesday that it was ordering stepped-up screenings for the disease at five American airports.

Those airports are New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters. Those facilities, he said, are the ports of entry into the United States for 94 percent of U.S.-bound travelers from the three West African countries in the grip of the latest deadly Ebola outbreak — Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

“We continue to have a lot of confidence in the screening measures that are already in place and have been in place for some time now,” Earnest said, emphasizing that “by far the most effective screening” of travelers was taking place before departure.

Those measures have blocked “dozens of people,” denying them boarding because they exhibited symptoms consistent with Ebola, he said.

The new screenings, which will include taking the temperature of travelers upon arrival, is likely to affect about 150 people total per day at all five airports, the spokesman said.

“This is an additional layer of screening that can be targeted to that small population in a way that will enhance security, but also minimize disruption to the broader travelling public,” Earnest said.

Ebola sufferers are only contagious when they exhibit symptoms of the disease, such as fever. But the incubation period between infection and symptoms can run as long as 21 days. Given the White House’s “confidence” in the existing screening process, it was unclear what would be gained from a medical standpoint from the new screenings.

The awkwardness was evident when a reporter asked Earnest: “So you’re completely confident in the measures there, but you’re adding more confidence here?”

“That’s right,” Earnest replied. “This is a multilayered screening approach, and what it demonstrates is our commitment to ensuring the safety of the traveling public and the safety of the American people right here at home.”

Given the profound public unease about the possibility of an Ebola outbreak in the United States, the new measures could serve to contain American anxiety and tamp down support for an outright ban on travel to the United States from the afflicted countries — a step health professionals say would have the counterproductive effect of making it harder to get equipment, medicine and doctors to the frontlines.

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