Ebola Virus: New Travel Restrictions Now in Place in the United States
J eh Johnson — who is the current United States Secretary of Homeland Security — announced that in order to help prevent the spread of the Ebola virus to the United States, new travel restrictions in the form of additional screening and protective measures have been enhanced and are now in place at five ports of entry for travelers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
The five ports of entry include the international airports in New York; Newark; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; and Chicago, which account for about 94 percent of travelers flying to the United States from these countries. Passengers flying into one of these airports from flights originating in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are subject to secondary screening and added protocols — including having their temperature taken — before they can be admitted into the United States.
There are currently no direct non-stop commercial flights from Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea to any airport in the United States.
According to this press release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, public health authorities will begin active post-arrival monitoring of travelers who arrive from Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea at the aforementioned five airports in the United States as of Monday, October 27, 2014.
This means that travelers without febrile illness or symptoms consistent with the Ebola virus will be required to follow up by state and local health departments for 21 days from the date of their departure by daily reporting during that time period their temperature; their intent to travel in-state or out-of-state; and the presence or absence of other symptoms of the Ebola virus — including but not necessarily limited to:
- Joint and muscle aches
- Stomach pain
- Lack of appetite
- Abnormal bleeding
21 days is the longest time it can take from the moment a person is infected with the Ebola virus until that person has its symptoms.
In addition, travelers will receive a Check And Report Ebola — or CARE — kit at the airport which contains the following:
- A tracking log and pictorial description of symptoms
- A thermometer
- Guidance for how to monitor with thermometer
- A wallet card on who to contact if they have symptoms and that they can present to a health care provider, and
- A health advisory infographic on monitoring health for three weeks
“Active monitoring establishes daily contact between public health officials and travelers from the affected region”, according to that official press release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “In the event a traveler begins to show symptoms, public health officials will implement an isolation and evaluation plan following appropriate protocols to limit exposure, and direct the individual to a local hospital that has been trained to receive potential Ebola patients.”
Although I believe that this whole Ebola virus scare is somewhat overblown, I also believe that the proper precautions are necessary — although I am not certain that the aforementioned announcements are the most effective way to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus to the United States.
“Infectious disease experts say the risk of that is low for several reasons”, according to this article written by Kathleen Doheny of WebMD Health News and reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD. “Ebola is hard to contract, they say, and good infection-control practices can stop its spread.
“What’s more, Ebola is much less contagious than many other more common diseases. The virus, much like HIV or hepatitis, is spread through blood or bodily fluids and is not airborne.”
One excellent practice of controlling an infection is properly washing your hands; and not touching vulnerable parts of your body — such as your mouth, nose or ears — before properly washing your hands. This is the main reason why I do not fear contracting the Ebola virus while traveling.
What are your thoughts about the Ebola virus scare?