Ebola: 6 States Will Monitor All Hot Zone Passengers

The CDC announces monitoring for all passengers from 3 Ebola-stricken nations, part of increased surveillance efforts as new Ebola czar Ron Klain starts firs day of work. Meanwhile, Bentley, the dog confined because his owner Dallas nurse Nina Pham has the virus, is cleared to go home. NBC medical editor Nancy Snyderman released from her Princeton, NJ home quarantine, and the NBC cameraman stricken with the disease is now Ebola-free.

Stepping up its Ebola surveillance, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today announced that all travelers arriving from the Ebola hot zone in West Africa will be monitored for 21 days—even those with no symptoms or likely exposure to the virus. Those who are free of symptoms but whose recent contacts put them at high risk will be quarantined. And everyone gets an Ebola kit—a thermometer and written Ebola information. Public health workers will be designated to stay in touch with all these travelers daily for the 21 days. Also, states will set up phone numbers for them to call if they have concerns about their health.

CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH made the monitoring announcement this morning, calling the new strategy “Another step to protect families, communities and health care workers from Ebola.” The move addresses concerns that someone exposed to Ebola but not yet symptomatic could pass screening but still come down with the virus.

The monitoring program will begin Oct. 27 in 6 states—Pennsylvania plus the 5 states with international airports where such arriving passengers are already being screened with questions about their travel histories and subjected to body temperature scans.

Yesterday the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that starting today all travelers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea may enter the US only through 5 airports where such screening is done. They are JFK International in New York, Newark Liberty International in Newark, NJ, Washington Dulles International in Dulles, VA, Hartsfield-Jackson International in Atlanta, GA, and Chicago O’Hare International in Chicago, Ill. The screenings led to one false alarm in New Jersey today after a Newark International passenger with a fever was hospitalized when he told screeners he might have the illness. He did not.

In other Ebola prevention steps, the CDC tightened its guidelines on what personal protective equipment is needed to protect workers, and demonstrated them at session attended by thousands of health care providers in New York City.

The flurry of announcements came as Obama administration’s Ebola czar Ron Klain started his new duties today.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie named an official Ebola response team.

In Texas, dozens of people who had been quarantined for Ebola monitoring have made it to the 21-day mark (believed to be the maximum incubation period for the virus) without getting the disease.

Two Dallas nurses remain hospitalized but are reported to be improving.

And in another piece of good news, Bentley, the pet dog of Nina Pham, the first nurse to become ill, has been declared free of Ebola by Dallas Animal Services and should soon be released from his confinement at a US Navy facility near Dallas.

NBC medical news editor Nancy Snyderman, MD, who herself made headlines by violating an agreement to stay insider her Princeton, NJ home for 21 days after a cameraman she traveled with in Africa came down with the virus, is also due to be freed from her quarantine later today. The cameraman, Ashoka Mukpo, a Rhode Island resident, yesterday was declared free of the virus and has been discharged from the high-level biocontainment unit in Omaha, NE where he had been a patient since Oct. 6.