White House: Officials ‘hard at work’ on new Ebola screening rules

White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Thursday that details on how the Obama administration plans to step up Ebola screenings at U.S. airports will be released in the coming days.

"The president's team is hard at work" assessing what else can be done to prevent travelers infected with the deadly virus from entering the U.S., Earnest told reporters traveling with the president aboard Air Force One.

ADVERTISEMENT

Obama announced Monday that the administration was "working on protocols to do additional passenger screenings both at the source and here in the United States," following his meeting with top health officials at the White House.

"All of these things make me confident that here in the United States, at least, the chances of an outbreak, of an epidemic here are extraordinarily low," Obama said.

Pressure on the U.S. to do more to prevent sick passengers from entering the country has intensified after a Liberian man, Thomas Eric Duncan, travelled successfully from West Africa to Dallas, Texas. Duncan is now undergoing treatment at an area hospital, but reportedly came into contact with numerous individuals while presenting symptoms of the disease.

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday that plans to screen airline passengers arriving in the U.S. remained "under discussion."

But, Fauci said, they would likely include "retaking the temperature and asking some additional questions so that you have screenings both at the exit and at the entry end."

"That's the thing that's on the table right now," he said in an interview with CNN.

Doing so would "close the gap" where patients infected with Ebola might not be presenting symptoms as they begin their travels.

"If in fact you, at that point, that 12, 13, 18 hours, however much it is to go through that trip, you start to develop a fever, you would be picked up," he said. "So it just closes that window of the time from getting infected to having the first manifestation with a fever. It just adds an extra slight layer of cover for the asymptomatic period."