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New York's JFK Airport Begins Screening Passengers for Ebola

About half of the 150 travelers who arrive daily in the U.S. from West Africa land at the airport

SATURDAY, Oct. 11, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Kennedy International Airport in New York City started screening travelers from West Africa for Ebola on Saturday, the first of five major U.S. airports that will examine passengers for fever and other telltale signs of the disease.

Under guidelines drawn up by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, travelers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone -- the three nations bearing the brunt of the outbreak in Africa -- will be escorted by customs agents to an area of the airport set aside for screening. Customs officers will examine the travelers for signs of illness and ask them a series of health and exposure questions. Trained medical staff will take their temperature with a non-contact thermometer.

Those with no symptoms or no known history of exposure to Ebola will be given health information about the viral disease, and will be reminded to monitor themselves for symptoms.

Passengers running a fever, showing symptoms of Ebola or giving answers that reveal a possible Ebola exposure will be moved to a CDC quarantine station. Once there, a public health officer will take another temperature reading and evaluate the person's health.

Anyone who needs further evaluation or monitoring after the CDC screening will be referred to the appropriate public health authority, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said at a news briefing earlier this week.

The four other airports are Washington Dulles International, O'Hare International in Chicago, Hartsfield-Jackson International in Atlanta and Newark Liberty International in New Jersey. They will begin their enhanced entry screening programs next week.

The five airports handle 94 percent of the roughly 150 travelers who arrive daily in the United States from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Frieden said. Kennedy Airport receives nearly half of those travelers.

Meanwhile, a Texas health care worker tested positive for the Ebola virus late Saturday, in what is the first reported case of Ebola infection on American soil.

Also, an American video journalist being treated for Ebola at a Nebraska hospital is showing modest signs of improvement, his doctors said Saturday.

Ashoka Mukpo, of Providence, R.I., "is still very weak, but his condition has improved," said Dr. Phil Smith, director of the 10-bed isolation unit at Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, the Associated Press reported.

Mukpo is the second Ebola patient to be treated at the hospital. He's getting an experimental Ebola drug called brincidofovir and IV fluids -- therapy similar to that given to Ebola patient Dr. Rick Sacra during his three weeks at the hospital, the news service said. Sacra, a medical missionary from Massachusetts who became infected in Liberia, has since recovered.

Mukpo became infected in Liberia while working for an NBC News team covering the Ebola outbreak.

U.S. troops arrived Thursday in Liberia, the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Their first mission was to set up a 25-bed isolation center for doctors and other health-care workers infected with the disease.

West Africa's Ebola epidemic is the worst outbreak ever of the disease. On Friday, the World Health Organization reported that 8,399 people have become infected and 4,033 people have died. All but 23 cases and nine deaths have occurred in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the international agency said.

More information

Visit the World Health Organization for more on Ebola.

SOURCES: World Health Organization; Oct. 8, 2014, news conference with Tom Frieden, M.D., director, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Alejandro Mayorkas, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security; Associated Press
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