Thursday, October 2, 2014

There’s Really No Way To Screen for Ebola at Airports

There’s Really No Way To Screen for Ebola at Airports
Defense One | August 1, 2014

The Centers for Disease Control confirmed on Tuesday that the first case of Ebola has been confirmed in the United States.

In July, the Nigerian government announced that they had started screening passengers at international airports for signs of Ebola after a passenger showed up in Lagos suffering from the illness, which kills up to 70 percent of the people infected with it. Treatment options are extremely limited. Nigerian airport authorities began checking passengers who just arrived from Sierra Leone, currently under a state of emergency, and they began looking for fever, since an elevated temperature is considered a sign of Ebola. If the passenger is presenting with higher than normal temperatures, screeners subject the passenger to a blood test.

Ebola is moving into more countries across Africa, but not as quickly as is fear. The country of South Africa announced this summer that they were in the process of outfitting airports with thermal scanners to detect feverish passengers. In many ways, it’s a repeat of 2009, when airports around the world brought in thermal scanners to look for passengers who were presenting with fever and suspected bird flu.

The recent Ebola outbreak first arrived in the United States, under careful observation, also during the summer. The CDC confirmed that at least one Ebola victim, Kent Brantly arrived back in the United States in August. Brantly, of Fort Worth, Texas, was working to staunch the outbreak in Liberia when he picked up the illness.

“All I am aware of, in terms of U.S. military involvement, is that we have a couple of Army researchers down in Africa, in Liberia, right now who have been for some time working on this particular virus,” Kirby said.

The good news is that neither the White House nor the epidemiologists that spoke to Defense One expects Ebola to have nearly as deadly an effect in the U.S. as it is having in Africa, where more than 3000 people have died. The CDC believes that more than 1.4 million people could become infected by the middle of January.

The bad news is that thermal screenings of the international flying population at airports are not likely to yield much by way of improved safety.