West Africans Funneled to 5 US Airports

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will begin limiting the airports through which travelers from Ebola-stricken countries may enter the US. Starting tomorrow, all these passengers will be forced to fly through 5 US airports: 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 US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will begin limiting the airports where travelers from Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa may enter the US. Starting tomorrow these passengers will be forced to fly through 5 airports: 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 measure, announced today by DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, goes a step further than the mandatory health screenings in effect at those airports, a program that started at JFK International on Oct. 11. These airports all have screening procedures for people arriving from these African countries: passengers temperatures are scanned, their travel histories taken, and any who have a fever or say they have recently been in contact with someone with Ebola are taken to health facilities.

“We currently have in place measures to identify and screen anyone at all land, sea and air ports of entry into the United States who we have reason to believe has been present in Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea in the preceding 21 days,” Johnson said in the announcement.

But that won’t mean a change of travel plans for most passengers, the DHS said, since these 5 airports already receive 94% of the estimated 150 people who enter the US from these countries daily.The DHS said it is working with the airlines to get them to take the responsibility for any rebookings.

Some political leaders have called for a complete ban on travel to the US from these countries—as have some physicians.

But the Obama administration has resisted, both on practical and humanitarian grounds.

Reacting to the new policy today, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the top Democrat on the House judiciary Committee called it “sensible.”

According to the DHS website, only a few travelers of the thousands who have been screened for signs they could have been exposed to the virus have been detained, and none of their suspected illnesses turned out to be Ebola. Several illnesses, particularly malaria, present with the same signs as Ebola.

Ebola screening is also in place at several airports in Europe and the UK.