Hours after the first patient to be diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. died of the disease, health officials moved to ease public worries and protect Americans by instituting increased screenings for airline passengers arriving from West Africa.
Beginning at JFK airport on Saturday, and moving to four other airports next week, authorities will be questioning these travlers about potential Ebola contact and taking their temperatures, Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a Wednesday media conference.
"We are taking these additional measures in a dynamic environment to ensure a layered approach and that we take the security measures that we assess to be needed right now," Alejandro Mayorkas, deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said at the conference.
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About 150 travel daily to the United States from the three countries hit hardest by Ebola—Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone—Frieden said.
Roughly 94 percent of these airline passengers enter the country through either JFK, Washington-Dulles, Newark, Chicago-O'Hare, and Atlanta, so these five airports will be the focus of the increased screenings, the officials said.
Frieden also disclosed that authorities were evaluating a suspected Ebola patient, but that the CDC will not have any definitive information for a few hours. The city of Frisco confirmed later on Wednesday that a Dallas County sheriff's deputy had been taken to the hospital for assessment after developing some stomach symptoms. This deputy did not have any direct contact with the patient, the city's fire chief said.
"There is someone who does not have either definite contact with Ebola or definite symptoms of Ebola who is being assessed," Frieden said. "We expect that as people are more concerned, as there's a higher index of suspicion, people will be assessed, there will be rumors and concerns and potential cases, and that's as it should be. We should just keep it in perspective."
As of the Wednesday conference, none of the 48 people who definitely or potentially had contact with the now-deceased patient have developed any definite symptoms, Frieden said.