CDC: Ebola Screenings Worth Effort

US airport screenings of international passengers arriving in the US have yet to turn up a single person infected with the Ebola virus, according to the US Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC). But from a public health standpoint, they have been worthwhile, the CDC said today in a special report in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Review

US airport screenings of arriving international passengers have yet to turn up a single person infected with the Ebola virus, according to the US Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC).

But from a public health standpoint, they have been worthwhile, the CDC said today in a special report in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Review

In its latest tally on US entry Ebola screening, the CDC reported that 12,000 passengers from West Africa headed to the US have been successfully screened for symptoms of the virus since the program began in August, 2014. Those efforts include enhanced screening measures begun shortly after Liberian visitor Thomas Eric Duncan’s Oct. 8 death from Ebola in a Dallas, TX hospital.

The enhanced measures--including taking patients temperatures, travel histories, and getting local contact information-- were begun at 5 international airports (JFK International in NY, Newark Liberty International in NJ, Washington-Dulles International in VA, Chicago-O’Hare International in Chicago, IL, and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International in Atlanta, GA).

Though no cases have been detected through the entry screenings, those measures--combined with exit screenings in West Africa designed to keep ill passengers boarding planes there—have had other benefits, the CDC said.The exit screenings in West Africa, initiated by the CDC, the World Health Organization and local governments, have not turned up any Ebola cases either, the CDC said.

But they have helped quell public fears about a possible Ebola pandemic.

“The combined exit and entry screening processes achieve the following 6 outcomes: preventing travel by ill persons from countries with widespread Ebola transmission, reducing the likelihood a traveler from a country with widespread Ebola transmission will become ill during travel, allowing the quick identification of any illness in persons arriving from countries with widespread Ebola transmission, limiting contact of persons being evaluated for Ebola with other person, facilitating rapid and appropriate clinical care for ill travelers, and providing the arriving traveler with public health education and links to public health authorities.”

Of 1,993 travelers from West Africa screened at the 5 airports from Oct. 11 to Nov. 10, 7 people (all of whome were returning health-care workers who had treated Ebola patients) had symptoms that could have been Ebola, but none of them was found to have the virus.

Overall, the arriving travelers were destined for 46 different states, the CDC said, with the most common destinations being New York (19%), Maryland (12%), Pennsylvania (11%), Georgia (9%) and Virginia (7%).