NIH: Ebola response might include 'entry screenings' at airports

Airline passengers who are flying to the U.S. from countries where Ebola is prevalent will likely have to have their temperatures taken twice under increased screenings announced Monday by President Obama, a high-ranking official at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said Tuesday. 

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFauci: COVID-19 vaccine could lead to 'breakthrough' in HIV fight GOP lawmaker calls for Wuhan probe to 'prevent the next pandemic' Trump bemoans lack of vaccine credit amid mask news MORE, director of the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said U.S. Ebola screening would likely be changed from “exit screening” that focuses on departure airports in African nations to “entry screening” that requires checks for passengers who are disembarking in the U.S. 


“We have what's called exit screening, namely if you or I went to an airport let's say in Monrovia, Liberia, and we wanted to board a plane, we would have our temperatures taken and we would have a questionnaire that would ask certain questions, like have you ever had contact with someone who you felt or knew had Ebola,” Fauci told CNN.

“We don't have much at all what's called entry screening here. What the president was talking about was considering the possibility of giving an extra layer of entry screening,” Fauci continued. “What that would look like is under discussion. But likely 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.” 

The Obama administration is making the change to calm fears about airplane travel that have grown since Thomas Duncan became the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. He flew from Liberia to Texas with a connection in Washington. 

Obama said Monday that he was confident the virus could be prevented from spreading, and the administration was "working on protocols to do additional passenger screenings both at the source and here in the United States."

"All of these things make me confident ... the chances of an outbreak, of an epidemic here are extraordinarily low," Obama said after he met with members of his Cabinet. 

Lawmakers have been pushing for additional screening, with some calling for a complete travel ban from countries battling the Ebola virus.

Obama administration officials have argued that it would be impractical to close off flights between the U.S. and countries affected by Ebola because doing so would make it harder to move relief supplies and health workers. They say that would hamper the international response and put more Americans at risk.

Fauci said Tuesday that the addition of entry screening “would close that gap of time that if you were negative or maybe mistaken temperature let's say at the exit level, or even if it was quite correctly not febrile as you got on the plane."