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All travelers from Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa must pass through one of five major U.S. airports with heightened screening before entering the country, the Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday. Starting on Wednesday, travelers from Ebola outbreak countries will be required to stop at New York's JFK, Newark, Washington-Dulles, Chicago-O'Hare and Atlanta international airports, where officials have already put in place enhanced security measures to halt the spread of the disease. Those airports handle 94 percent of travelers from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, where more than 4,000 people have died of the devastating virus.
"We are working closely with the airlines to implement these restrictions with minimal travel disruption," Jeh Johnson, secretary of homeland security, said Tuesday. "If not already handled by the airlines, the few impacted travelers should contact the airlines for rebooking, as needed." The screening includes using no-touch thermometers to figure out if travelers have a temperature — one key symptom of a potential Ebola infection.
Customs officials have said about 150 people travel daily from or through Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone to the United States. As of Oct. 14, there were 4,249 known Ebola cases in Liberia, 1,519 in Guinea and 3,410 in Sierra Leone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A combined total of more than 550 travelers coming from those West African countries have been screened at those five airports since the enhanced security measures began, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Not one has tested positive for Ebola. As of Monday, just three of those travelers had an abnormally high fever. And just four, all at Washington-Dulles airport, were transported to a hospital because the CDC determined they needed additional screening.
U.S. officials announced the boosted screenings on Oct. 8, the same day Thomas Eric Duncan died in a Dallas, Texas, hospital of an Ebola infection he had contracted in Liberia. Duncan entered the United States through Dulles in September.
- Travelers From Ebola-Hit Africa Will Be Screened in U.S.
- New York's JFK Airport Begins Ebola Screening Program