How U.S. Airports Are Screening for Ebola, From JFK To Chicago O'Hare
Making good on the promise to up the country's precautions against Ebola, the U.S. will begin Ebola screenings at five major airports for the first time ever this Saturday. Anyone arriving from West Africa will be taken aside, questioned, and tested for possible signs of the deadly virus; even if symptoms aren't found, the travelers will be asked to fill out a temperature log every day for 21 days — the amount of time Ebola incubates — and give authorities their contact information.
According to Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman who made the announcement during a press briefing Wednesday, the five big airports — John F. Kennedy Airport, Newark Airport, Dulles, Chicago O'Hare and Hartsfield-Jackson — are the gateway for 94 percent of travelers from West Africa. In fact, about 150 passengers arrive in these airports, each day, from the three countries that Ebola has hit the hardest: Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
As of this weekend, these passengers will have to undergo temperature checks and questioning upon arriving in the U.S. If officials see any symptoms at all — which include fever, sore throat, vomiting, and bleeding — they'll be referred by a quarantine officer with the CDC. The strongest focus will of course be on those arriving from the three high-risk countries.
As to whether the screenings will make a difference? While it's highly unlikely that they'll be able to entirely eliminate the risk of Ebola coming into the States, the precautions might help alleviate some of the fear that's increasingly spreading across the country. Said President Obama in a phone call Wednesday, as quoted by Bart Jansen of USA Today:
These measures are really just belt-and-suspenders — it's an added layer of protection on top of the procedures already in place at several airports. It will give us the ability to isolate, evaluate and monitor travelers as needed. And we'll be able to collect any contact information that's necessary.
Meanwhile, though, those that actually spend their every working day at these airports are getting worried. On Thursday morning, cabin cleaners at LaGuardia airport's Terminal D went on strike, after filing complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration noting several health and safety violations. According to the company the cleaners work for, AirServ, the workers often have to clean body fluids without the right protective gear — considering that Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with an infected person's blood or bodily fluids, I'd say, yah, that's a pretty solid reason to go on strike.
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