Health screenings to help prevent the spread of Ebola began Saturday for some travelers to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport but an official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that nothing can “get the risk to zero.”
Four other airports will add the screenings next Thursday, according to the CDC.
This won’t be a mass event, with long lines of travelers waiting for screening. Only about 150 travelers a day will receive the screenings, CDC officials said.
“No matter how many of these procedures are put into place, we can’t get the risk to zero,” Dr. Martin Cetron, director of the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, told reporters Saturday. “That will not be the case but this additional layer should add a measure of security to the American public. This entry screening procedure, for example, would not necessarily have caught the patient in Dallas.”
Cetron was referring to the only case of Ebola so far diagnosed on U.S. soil — that of Thomas Eric Duncan, who didn’t have symptoms at the time he arrived in the United States.
Under the program, passengers originating from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone will be subject to the additional screening, according to the CDC.
Medical workers will take the passengers’ temperature and Customs and Border Protection staffers will ask questions about their health and possible exposure to Ebola.
Those suspected of possible Ebola exposure will be referred to a CDC public health officer for additional screening.
After the initial run Saturday at JFK, the testing will expand Thursday to Washington-Dulles, Newark, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.
The five airports, JFK included, receive 94% of air travelers that come from the afflicted countries, according to the CDC.
“The expanded screening measures provide this layer of protection to the already established protocols to minimize the risk of another case of Ebola here in the United States,” said R. Gil Kerlikowske, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. (CNN)