Tags: Ebola Outbreak | Ebola | airport screening | Farenthold | CDC

Rep. Farenthold Slams Ebola Airport Screening Plan

By    |   Wednesday, 08 October 2014 10:23 PM

Rep. Blake Farenthold on Wednesday slammed the Obama administration's plan to screen West African travelers for the deadly Ebola virus at only five U.S. airports as being riddled with "too many holes."

"You've got a direct flight on United into Houston from Lagos," the Texas Republican charged. "Why aren’t they screening in Houston?"

Farenthold referred to the largest city in Nigeria, where eight people have died in the current Ebola outbreak and 19 cases have been confirmed. The disease has mostly stricken Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea — where more than 3,800 deaths have occurred among over 8,000 confirmed cases.

"There's too many holes," Farenthold told Newsmax. "If you’re trying to sneak into the United States with Ebola, you know what airlines not to go to."

In light of the first U.S. patient dying from Ebola in Dallas — and amid an investigation by Texas health officials into another possible case — the White House said that travelers from the three hardest-hit countries in the Ebola crisis would be screened at five U.S. airports.

Screenings will begin Saturday at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, said Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

They will expand next week to Washington Dulles International, Newark Liberty International in New Jersey, O'Hare International in Chicago and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, he said.

The passengers will be visually assessed, asked if they have had any contact with people infected with Ebola, Frieden said. Their temperatures will be taken and their medical histories will be checked.

Ninety-five percent of the 150 people traveling from West Africa every day come through those five airports, Frieden said. That's about 1 percent of all travelers — and more than 40,000 visitors have come to the United States from the region in the past six months, he said.

Besides United Airlines, Delta Air Lines also offers nonstop service to West Africa, but neither carrier flies to any of the countries in the Ebola-outbreak zone. Delta stopped flights to Monrovia, Liberia's capital city, in August.

"Ebola is scary," Frieden said at a news conference at CDC headquarters in Atlanta. "Ebola is a deadly disease.

"Protecting Americans is our No. 1 priority," he added. "What we want to do is ensure that we don't undermine our ability to stop the Ebola outbreak at the source and unintentionally increase our risk here."

Meanwhile, the first U.S. patient with Ebola, Thomas Eric Duncan, died on Wednesday at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. He had been isolated there since Sept. 28.

Duncan came to Dallas from Monrovia on Sept. 20 via Brussels. He showed no symptoms of the disease until days after his arrival in the U.S.

He passed an airport health screening in Liberia, where doctors took his temperature and found no other signs of Ebola symptoms, but he did not tell officials that he had been exposed to someone with the disease.

In addition, officials is suburban Dallas said late Wednesday that the chances were small that a county sheriff's deputy who became ill after visiting Duncan's apartment last week has Ebola.

"The risk is minimal," The Dallas Morning News reported Frisco Mayor Maher Maso as saying. But he cautioned that officials were proceeding "with an abundance of caution."

Family members identified the patient as Senior Sgt. Michael Monnig of the Dallas County Sheriff's Office. He was in in Duncan's apartment in Dallas last week to help serve orders that barred Duncan's family from leaving to help stop the spread of the Ebola virus.

Monnig and other deputies were not wearing protective gear, according to news reports.

That Dallas officials are investigating yet another possible Ebola case proves "just how dangerous this disease is," Farenthold told Newsmax. "No matter how many precautions we take, there are going to be people who get it.

"The survival rate, at 50 percent, is not good," he added. "We've got to err on the side of being as careful as possible."

The two-term congressman said that by only screening at five U.S. airports, medical personnel would miss many travelers heading to the United States from Europe.

"If you're coming in from that part of the world, very likely you've made a connection somewhere in Europe," he said. "It's got to go beyond just the direct flights from that region. You need to look at folks who are connecting as well."

He said that Duncan's case was especially alarming because he did not disclose his prior contact with a pregnant woman with Ebola who later died. Duncan left for the United States four days after the woman's death, according to news reports.

"If you've got somebody who thinks they've been exposed, you almost can't blame them for trying to get to the United States, because they're going to get better care here," Farenthold acknowledged. "But if somebody's trying to do that, they're going to avoid those airports. We've just told them what to do."

Many of his Republican colleagues have called for a full travel ban from West Africa, but Farenthold told Newsmax that should be "a last resort."

"We may get to the point of a full travel ban, but we certainly need to kick up what we're doing beyond just five airports.

"I realize that it's going to be expensive. It's going to be time-consuming, slow some people down, but if we don't do it, more people are going to die."

Farenthold expressed even greater concern at the possibility of West Africans with Ebola coming into the United States through the unprotected South Texas border.

"You don't have to come through one of our airports. It's pretty easy to come across the southern border," he said. "The need to secure the southern border is growing by the day."

Farenthold's fellow Lone Star State Republican, Sen. Ted Cruz, reiterated his call for a travel ban on West Africa.

"The first line of defense should be to prevent that terrible virus from coming here," he told Megyn Kelly on her Fox News program. "We know that that first line of defense has already failed at least once."

He said that he was "deeply concerned" about the people in West Africa, but that the U.S. government's biggest concern should be the people of America.

"Our priority should be protecting the American people and preventing Ebola from coming here."

Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

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Rep. Blake Farenthold on Wednesday slammed the Obama administration's plan to screen West African travelers for the deadly Ebola virus at only five U.S. airports as being riddled with "too many holes."
Ebola, airport screening, Farenthold, CDC
Wednesday, 08 October 2014 10:23 PM
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