Ebola screening starts at New York’s JFK Airport


Medical teams at New York’s JohnFKennedyAirport, armed with Ebola questionnaires and temperature guns, began screening travellers from three West African countries on Saturday as US health authorities stepped up efforts to stop the spread of the virus.

JFKAirport is the first of five US airports to start enhanced screening of US-bound travellers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Those countries have seen most of the deaths from the outbreak, which has claimed more than 4,000 lives.

Nearly all passengers travelling to the United States from those countries arrive at JFK, Newark Liberty, Washington Dulles, Chicago O’Hare and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta. The new procedures will begin at the other four airports on Thursday.

Mohamed Dabo, a 22-year-old Indiana man who arrived at JFK from Guinea after a stopover in Paris, said he was surprised by the intensity of the screening.

“I don’t really know what was going on in there but it was kind of crazy,” he said. “I sat down there for two hours.”

The screenings, which will affect only a tiny fraction of overall passengers arriving at JFK, are being conducted by the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP), under direction of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


JFK is the entry point for nearly half the roughly 150 travellers who arrive daily in the United States from the three West African countries, and those passengers amount to about one-tenth of 1 percent of all international daily arrivals at the airport, the CDC said.

Edward Lama Wonkeryor, 60, a professor of communications and African studies at a Liberian university, said going through the enhanced screening was educational for him, but he said the push to staunch Ebola was stigmatizing West Africans.

“There seems to be an over-exaggeration of the impact of this deadly disease where stigmatization becomes apparent in the process,” Wonkeryor said after a trip from Liberia via Brussels.

“That is wrong because this is a disease that can be controlled based on what medical experts are telling us.”


The CDC said the airport screening is just one aspect of an overall strategy to fight the spread of Ebola.

“No matter how many of these procedures are put into place, we can’t get the risk to zero,” said Martin Cetron, director of the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine. “This new entry-screening procedure is just one part of a multi-layered approach,” he told the JFK news conference.

That said, Lawrence Gostin, who teaches global health law at Georgetown Law School, believes such monitoring “had virtually no effectiveness” when used in Canada and Asia during the SARS outbreak in 2002. He said travelers with a fever can evade detection by taking over-the-counter medication.