DHS Implements First Ebola Travel Protocols
Policy + Politics

DHS Implements First Ebola Travel Protocols

The federal government is further ramping up its efforts to prevent an Ebola outbreak here at in the United States by imposing restrictions on travelers coming from countries infested with the deadly virus. 

On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security announced that people coming into the U.S. from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea must fly into the following five major airports:  Washington Dulles, Chicago O'Hare, New York John F. Kennedy, Newark New Jersey and Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson to undergo a thorough health screening process.

Related: Public Health Funding Cuts Could Damage Our Defense Against Epidemics 

”We are working closely with the airlines to implement these restrictions with minimal travel disruption,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement. “If not already handled by the airlines, the few impacted travelers should contact the airlines for rebooking, as needed.” 

The administration had already announced that those airports would be ramping up their travel screening efforts, but this is the first time the federal government has announced travel restrictions of any kind surrounding the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. 

Still some lawmakers are calling on the Obama administration to go further and restrict flights completely from the Ebola-stricken countries to prevent an outbreak here at home. 

However health officials have stressed that doing so would hinder the global effort to quell the outbreak at the source. During a congressional hearing last week, the director for the Centers for Disease and Control Tom Frieden explained to lawmakers why the administration is resisting any kind of travel ban to the infected countries. 

Related: CDC Spars with Congress Over Travel Ban for Ebola Countries 

“If we try to eliminate travel … we won't be able to check them for fever when they leave. We won't be able to check for fever when they arrive. We won't be able to take a detailed travel history. We won't be able to obtain detailed locating information to pass it to local public health officials,” Frieden said. Likewise, the White House, as well as officials from the National Institutes of Health and Customs and Border Protection have also signaled that a travel ban would hinder the effort.  

So far this year, Ebola has killed more than 4,500 people—primarily in the West African countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. The ramped up efforts in the United States come on the heels of the country’s first Ebola victim, Thomas Eric Duncan, who died two weeks ago. 

Since then, health officials, lawmakers and the public have raised concerns over the country’s ability to respond to any potential outbreak of the deadly virus at home. 

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