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October 22, 2014

Ebola Update: Homeland Security Restricts Flights to Prevent Virus Spread

airlineThe Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced new travel restrictions designed to combat the Ebola outbreak, The Hill reports. Under the new rules, all flights from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone will be redirected to five major U.S. airports: Washington Dulles International Airport, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

These airports had received additional screening procedures in early October in order to combat the spread of Ebola. As part of the new process, after passport review:

  • Travelers from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone will be escorted by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to an area of the airport set aside for screening.
  • Trained CBP staff will observe them for signs of illness, ask them a series of health and exposure questions and provide health information for Ebola and reminders to monitor themselves for symptoms. Trained medical staff will take their temperature with a non-contact thermometer.
  • If the travelers have fever, symptoms or the health questionnaire reveals possible Ebola exposure, they will be evaluated by a CDC quarantine station public health officer. The public health officer will again take a temperature reading and make a public health assessment. Travelers, who after this assessment, are determined to require further evaluation or monitoring will be referred to the appropriate public health authority.
  • Travelers from these countries who have neither symptoms/fever nor a known history of exposure will receive health information for self-monitoring. 

These airports had already received about 94 percent of the approximately 150 travelers who arrive each day from the three countries, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told the Los Angeles Times

RELATED: South Africa's Business Scene Struggles to Overcome Ebola Fears


Travel Industry Impact

The continuing Ebola outbreak has been making its impact felt on the travel industry over the past few weeks. 

In South Africa, industry professionals are beginning to notice a "wait-and-see" approach from clients about traveling to the country. 

The outbreak has prompted a controversial call for an outright ban on travel from Ebola-affected countries. A poll released by NBC in early October showed that a majority of Americans supported such a ban. The Obama administration, however, has opposed a full ban, saying that such an action could make it harder to contain the outbreak by causing civil unrest in the isolated countries. 

"You isolate them, you can cause unrest in the country," Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, told "Fox News Sunday" at the time. "It's conceivable that governments could fall if you just isolate them completely."

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