Ebola in the United States

How is it effecting travelers?

News about the Ebola Virus disease is saturating the media, especially since it has hit closer to home; creating a sense of unease and vulnerability among travelers.

Earlier this month, measures were put into effect for the first time since the World Health Organization declared the current outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on August 8. The measures are designed to help prevent travelers from entering the United States that have Ebola-like symptoms.

Kennedy International in New York became the first of five United States airports to temperature screen passengers arriving from West Africa – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

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Screenings include taking passenger temperatures with a non-contact thermometer and detailed questioning. The Transport Security Administration (T.S.A.) have also provided guidance to airlines on how to identify passengers who are ill and displaying Ebola-like symptoms.

These screenings have since been rolled out to Washington D.C’s Dulles International Airport, Chicago’s O’Hare International, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International and Newark Liberty International. 

In West Africa, as airlines continue to operate flights from countries that have been hit the hardest – departing passengers are being screened before they fly. They are required to fill out a health questionnaire and undergo a visual assessment and temperature check.

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The Center for Disease Control has advised avoiding non-essential travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Several airlines have suspended flights in and out of the area, while several cruise lines have altered their routes to avoid the West African coastline altogether.

One of the challenges that healthcare professionals face is that it can be difficult to distinguish between Ebola, Malaria, Typhoid Fever and Meningitis – diseases that are also commonly contracted within these areas.

First symptoms are the sudden onset of fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. Those symptoms are then followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases both internal and external bleeding.

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the disease is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids – blood, vomit, urine, diarrhea – of a contagious person.  The incubation period form time of infection to symptoms is 2 to 21 days.

Ebola has killed more than 4,000 people in West Africa, and in the next two months, WHO reports that there could be 10,000 new Ebola cases each week. In Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone new cases continue to explode in areas that look like they were coming under control.

Amidst all the gloomy reports, there is some good news. On Oct 17, WHO declared the end of the Ebola in Senegal, and three days later, the outbreak was also declared over in Nigeria.

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