U.S. airports increase screenings to prevent spread of Ebola

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SEA-TAC INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT — Health officials aren’t taking any chances when it comes to Ebola.

Tuesday night, a passenger from Liberia landed at LAX, and was immediately taken to a Los Angeles area hospital for testing.

“We do understand there’s a lot of concern about Ebola, so our threshold is very low,” said interim health officer Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “If we think there is something that is of concern, we’re going to take appropriate action.”

The hospital said the patient did not show any Ebola symptoms, but was being isolated as a precaution. Travelers say hearing about cases like that makes them worry about the possibility of Ebola spreading in the United States.

“I thought about it a bit with a few people coughing on the plane,” says Jim Hopper, who landed at Sea-Tac Wednesday.

The White House says the CDC has already intensified passenger screenings in West Africa.

“Preventing individuals who are already exhibiting symptoms of Ebola from boarding an airplane in the first place is the most effective measure that will counter and has countered the spread of Ebola,” says White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

But since patients may not show symptoms of the deadly virus immediately, more safety measures are being implemented at five airports in the U.S.

Passengers coming from West Africa will now have their temperature taken and be asked about their travel history when they land in New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. There won’t be enhanced screenings at Sea-Tac yet.

“I have to imagine that they’re prioritizing where to do it first,” says passenger Anant Shah.

“I’ve flown from Africa before,” adds Hopper. “Flights come into Dulles (outside Washington, D.C.) and they come into the East Coast. So I’m sure that’s what they’re looking for, there’s more travelers coming to the East Coast versus Seattle. I think we’re pretty safe over here.”

The CDC says they picked the five airports for additional screening because that’s where 94 percent of the people coming from West Africa enter the U.S. But they do have quarantine stations at 20 airports, including Sea-Tac. If incoming passengers appear to be ill, they can be isolated and tested.

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