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Travelers to U.S. From Ebola Countries to Face 21-Day Watch

Wednesday, 22 Oct 2014 04:24 PM

(Updates with Virginia screening information in sixth paragraph. For more on Ebola, see EXT7.)

Oct. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Health officials will monitor people arriving in the U.S. from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea for Ebola for 21 days, as the disease outbreak remains “persistent and widespread” in the West African countries.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will ask people whose travel originates in the three countries to give their name and contact information, and U.S. states will follow up with personal monitoring to check for any symptoms of the virus, CDC Director Thomas Frieden said today.

Health workers will take travelers’ temperatures daily, with people reporting by phone or in person until they pass the virus’s three-week incubation period, he said. Six states will begin monitoring on Oct. 27, and travelers will have to report any additional travel inside the U.S. If they don’t report in, states can track them down, Frieden said.

“State and local authorities can require participation in a program meant to prevent the spread of communicable disease,” Frieden said on a conference call.

The U.S. has already said it will require travelers coming from the three countries to arrive at five major U.S. airports that have screening in place. The monitoring states include New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Virginia and Maryland. Other states will begin the program in the coming days, he said.

Federal-State Effort

Frieden said the CDC is helping states implement the monitoring measures. In Virginia, health authorities said they may have to watch many of the 30 to 50 passengers from Ebola- affected countries who arrive daily at nearby Washington Dulles International Airport.

“We expect the volume of travelers that we’ll be monitoring to build up quickly,” David Trump, the chief deputy commissioner for public health preparedness, said by telephone. “We’re looking at what the needs are and how to best organize to sustain monitoring for a period of time.”

In New Jersey, state police are compiling lists of passengers originating in West Africa arriving at Newark Liberty International Airport, which receives some travelers from Ebola- affected countries.

There, Ebola screeners use the lists to determine who should be pulled aside for temperature checks. The state is also making arrangements to transport and house symptomatic people, said Jennifer Velez, commissioner of the state Human Services Department.

Pennsylvania Program

The Pennsylvania Health Department already has staff members in place to monitor and contain infectious diseases such as the measles and will apply them to the Ebola program, Aimee Tysarczyk, an agency spokeswoman, said by phone.

“This is a precautionary measure,” she said. “The risk of contracting Ebola is still very, very low. We’re all seeing lessons learned coming out of Texas and coming out of the CDC and making the appropriate adjustments necessary to make sure we’re prepared in case we have a positive case.”

The U.S. monitoring program will last until the outbreak in West Africa is contained, according to Frieden.

“This is another step,” Frieden said. “The risk is getting lower with these measures but until the outbreak is stopped, we can’t make the risk zero.”

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has infected 9,911 people in the three countries, including almost 1,000 new cases reported in week ending Oct. 19. About half of those have died, the World Health Organization said today.

Caseload Growing

The virus “transmission remains persistent and widespread,” the WHO said today, and “intense in the capital cities of the three most-affected countries. Case numbers continue to be under-reported, especially from the Liberian capital Monrovia.”

There is no approved cure for Ebola. The virus spreads from contact with bodily fluids such as blood and vomit. Among the early symptoms is a fever. Current care involves supporting the patient with fluids and trying to fight off opportunistic infections.

Several drugmakers are racing to get an Ebola vaccine on the ground in Africa. Johnson & Johnson plans to have 250,000 doses of experimental vaccine ready for clinical trials in May, the company said today. GlaxoSmithKline Plc is also working on a vaccine, and it will need six months to work out how to produce hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses for wider use, the company said last month.

--With assistance from Caroline Chen in New York, Terrence Dopp in Trenton and Freeman Klopott in Albany.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kelly Gilblom in New York at kgilblom@bloomberg.net To contact the editors responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net Andrew Pollack, Bruce Rule

© Copyright 2017 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

   
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