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CDC Issues New Ebola Screening Protocols For U.S. Airports

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

More now about U.S. efforts to combat Ebola in Africa and here at home. Federal officials announced today that airline passengers arriving from three West African nations will undergo screening for Ebola at major points of entry in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants to enhance measures already being taken in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. NPR's Anders Kelto explains how it would work.

ANDERS KELTO, BYLINE: The screening will take place at five U.S. airports - New York's JFK, Newark, Chicago O'Hare, Washington Dulles and Atlanta.

CDC director Thomas Frieden says screening will start Saturday at JFK and next week at the other four airports.

THOMAS FRIEDEN: The Department of Homeland Security, CBP - Customs and Border Protection - will be implementing a new detailed questionnaire, as well as a temperature-taking and providing information to each traveler.

KELTO: They'll be told what symptoms to watch for and what to do if symptoms develop.

FRIEDEN: If any travelers are found to either have a fever or have a history of contact with Ebola, then the on-site Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public health officer will further interview that individual, assess the individual and take additional action as appropriate.

KELTO: That action could be referral to local health authorities or transport to a hospital for treatment and isolation. The CDC will also ask passengers arriving from West Africa for their U.S. contact information. Roughly 150 people travel to the U.S. from West Africa each day and Frieden says only those 150 passengers will be subjected to additional screening.

Earlier in the day, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said disruptions to the broader public will be kept to a minimum. And he emphasized the fact that health screenings on the U.S. side are less important.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

JOSH EARNEST: By far, the most effective screening measure that is in place is not any screening that takes place here in the United States. It's the screening that takes place in these three countries in West Africa where their experiencing this Ebola outbreak.

KELTO: In those countries, exiting passengers who exhibit signs of Ebola, including a fever, can be prevented from flying. The CDC said 36,000 people have been screened in West African airports in the last two months. 77 people have been stopped from getting on planes. None have been found to have Ebola.

Anders Kelto, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.