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U.S. airports see about 150 Ebola zone travelers per day

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is predicting that U.S. airports will screen about 150 travelers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone for Ebola per day, and about 55,000 per year.

The CDC has included those estimates in an analysis for a new Ebola risk screening information collection program.

The CDC — an arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) — has told the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to have the U.S. Customers and Border Protection (CBP) workers stationed in airports to put arriving passengers from the countries most affected by Ebola through an extra layer of screening.

CBP workers are now supposed to use non-contact thermometers to check the temperature of travelers who have been in an Ebola outbreak country in the past 21 days. The workers are also supposed to see if the travelers show any obvious signs of illness and have those travelers fill out health declaration forms.

The CBP workers must store the forms and tear sheets in PDF files on a flash drive, then feed the data in each flash drive into a DHS server. The DHS will transfer batches of Ebola PDF forms to CDC computers through secure file transfer protocol transmissions.

If a CBP worker believes a traveler warrants extra attention, the worker will print the health declaration form and hand the printed form to a CDC staff member, officials say in a description of the information collection process. A CDC staff member will then decide if a traveler needs further medical evaluation.

The CDC Ebola zone arrival estimates could help actuaries and others who are trying to predict how likely Ebola is to become an ongoing problem in the United States.

See also: WHO sees up to 10,000 Ebola cases a week in Africa by Dec. 1

The CDC and DHS developed an earlier Ebola risk-assessment information collection effort in September. The earlier, more limited effort affected only travelers who were reported to the CDC as being ill before they arrived at the airport.

CDC officials suggested that about 9,125 of the arriving travelers will come from Guinea, and that many of those travelers will need a French translation of the health declaration form.

In a job aid for CBP workers, the CDC advises the workers, “Separate traveler at least six feet from yourself and others,” and “Avoid direct contact.” The CDC also is encouraging the workers to wash their hands with soap and water after any contacts with ill travelers or after removing gloves.


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