Saturday, February 27, 2021

CDC: US To Begin Screening Passengers From Guinea & DRC Due To Ebola Outbreaks



While  disruptive, and generally ineffective, airport screening is often the first - and most visible - response by governments anxious to do `something'  to protect the populace when there is an outbreak of a highly infectious disease somewhere in the world (see 2014's Why Airport Screening Can’t Stop MERS, Ebola or Avian Flu).

While it may limited in its effectiveness, airport screening isn’t without value, as it can:
  • identify acutely ill individuals (and any traveling companions/contacts) when they are likely to be the most contagious so they can be promptly isolated
  • it provides an opportunity to educate travelers about how, and when, they should contact public health officials if they fall ill post arrival
  • it can provide important disease surveillance and tracking information for local health depts
  • And it might even help slow the rate of entry of an emerging disease into a region, allowing additional time to mount public health interventions.
Even without the reduction in air travel due to the COVID pandemic, the risk of introducing Ebola into the United States from these outbreaks is very low.  And even if that happened (as it did in 2014), community spread would be highly unlikely. 
But low is not zero.  

So overnight the CDC released a media statement on how they will respond to the twin Ebola outbreaks recently reported in Africa (see ECDC Risk Assessment); starting next week passengers with recent travel history to Guinea and/or the DRC will be routed through six U.S. airports to allow for screening and tracking.

Media Statement
For Immediate Release
Friday Feb. 26, 2021
Contact: CDC Media Relations
(404) 639-3286
USG to Initiate Public Health Measures to Respond to Ebola in Guinea and DRC

CDC is closely following the outbreaks of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Guinea.

The outbreaks are centered in remote areas of these countries. The risk of Ebola to the United States is extremely low. The Biden Administration is committed to working closely with the affected countries to end these outbreaks before they grow into epidemics.

Air travel has the potential to transport people, some of whom may have been exposed to a communicable disease, anywhere across the globe in less than 24 hours. Therefore, out of an abundance of caution, the U.S. government will institute public health measures for the very small number of travelers arriving from the DRC and Guinea.

Beginning next week, the U.S. government will funnel travelers from DRC and Guinea to six U.S. airports. Airlines will collect and transmit passenger information to CDC for public health follow-up and intervention for all passengers boarding a flight to the U.S. who were in DRC or Guinea within the previous 21 days. This information will be shared with U.S. state and local health departments to appropriately monitor arrivals in their jurisdiction.