US Takes Steps to Prevent Spread of Ebola to America

Image: US Takes Steps to Prevent Spread of Ebola to America Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. (Branden Camp/EPA/Landov)

Wednesday, 06 Aug 2014 02:43 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The U.S. government is taking steps to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus to America,  The Wall Street Journal reported.

Airports are ready to start quarantining people who show symptoms of the virus, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said on Monday, adding that the government is in a position to "ensure that public health is protected," according to the Journal.

There are already Customs and Border Patrol officials who monitor passengers who come from countries affected by the outbreak, particularly Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia, so "we are in a position to ensure that public health is protected," Earnest said in a press briefing,the Journal reported.

"If CBP officers do recognize an individual who appears to be exhibiting some of these [Ebola] symptoms, there are facilities at these ports of entry, at these airports, where individuals can be quarantined and evaluated by medical personnel," Earnest said.

Ebola is not airborne, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has trained Border Patrol agents on the disease's symptoms. The virus also cannot be transmitted through water or food, and is only contagious when an infected person shows symptoms, which include vomiting, diarrhea, and external and internal bleeding.

The infection spreads when a person comes into direct contact with either blood or body secretions of an infected person, or through contact with contaminated objects such as hypodermic needles. People leaving African countries are screened carefully, Earnest said.

"At this point there are screenings that are in place, both before individuals board flights in their home countries, or where these flights originate, but also after these individuals arrive here in the United States they are screened once again," Earnest said, according to the Journal.

The security issue is urgent this week as representatives from more than 50 African countries have arrived in the United States this week to attend the first leadership summit with the United States, The Associated Press reported.

Agents at Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C., and at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, in particular, were put on alert to ask incoming travelers about possible Ebola virus exposure. They are to watch for anyone showing symptoms of the deadly illness, including non-dramatic signs that include a fever, aches, sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, a rash, or red eyes, the AP reported.

Maryland's Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, receiving several of the African leaders attending the summit, is also screening passengers and Secret Service Agents put in charge at the summit are also briefed on symptoms.

"There is always the possibility that someone with an infectious disease can enter the United States," CDC spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds told AP this week. "The public health concern is whether it would spread, and, if so, how quickly."

There have been some cases of viral hemorrhagic fever entering the United States, but not Ebola. Last March, a Minnesota man developed Lassa fever, another hemorrhagic illness, while traveling to West Africa. Health officials were able to control the illness in all five cases, Reynolds said.

Despite the Ebola scare, planes are still flying in and out of Africa daily, NBC affiliate WWLP in Springfield, Massachusetts, reported.

Dr. Jackson Williams at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield told WWLP that the Ebola scare has created an "incredible stress to an already strained healthcare system" in Africa.

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