The Biden administration on Thursday said it will begin redirecting travelers coming from Uganda to one of five different airports where they can be screened for Ebola.
Beginning on Friday, all U.S.-bound passengers who have been in Uganda in the 21 days prior to their arrival will be routed to New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Newark Liberty International in New Jersey, Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta, O’Hare International in Chicago, or Dulles International near Washington, D.C., for enhanced screening “out of an abundance of caution,” according to the U.S. Embassy in Uganda.
To date, cases in the outbreak have only been confirmed in Uganda, and there have been no probable or confirmed cases of Ebola in the United States.
Still, the outbreak is concerning because of its rapid growth, and because it is being caused by the Sudan strain, for which there are no approved vaccines or treatments.
There have been more than 60 confirmed and probable cases reported in just two weeks and 29 deaths, including four health workers, according to the World Health Organization. Global health officials fear the virus has been spreading undetected for much longer.
According to an administration official, passengers can expect a temperature check and will fill out a health questionnaire about Ebola. Their contact information will be shared with U.S. state and local health departments to follow up with arrivals in their jurisdictions.
It’s unclear how long the screenings will remain in place.
Exit screening at airports in Uganda will remain the principal means of keeping travelers from spreading Ebola to other nations, the administration said.
While there are no direct flights from Uganda to the United States, travelers from or passing through affected areas in Uganda can enter the United States on flights connecting from other countries, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a health alert.
The CDC urged clinicians to obtain a detailed travel history from patients with suspected Ebola infections, especially those who have been in affected areas of Uganda.
A person infected with Ebola virus is not contagious until symptoms appear, including fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, loss of appetite, gastrointestinal symptoms and unexplained bleeding.
The virus is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the body fluids of a person who is sick with or has died from Ebola, infected animals or with objects like needles that are contaminated with the virus. Ebola is not spread through airborne transmission.