After watching CBS correspondent Lara Logan’s report on 60 Minutes a few weeks ago, I began thinking of the effect Ebola has on the people of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. As of last week, there were more than 13,200 cases confirmed and more than 5,000 deaths in the three countries where the virus is widespread. Logan and her crew are finishing a 21-day quarantine in their hotel as a precautionary measure; fortunately, they have shown no signs of infection with the virus.
As much as the television story moved me to think of the situation in West Africa, I began to think closer to home and the impact the virus can have here in the U.S. Since an airport would be the primary point of entry for travelers who may be carrying the Ebola virus, the U.S. government selected five airports for entry screening: JFK, Newark, Chicago O’Hare, Washington Dulles, and Atlanta. These five airports receive more than 94 percent of the travelers departing from the Ebola-affected countries. But, what if the individual is not showing any symptoms when they arrive at one of these airports? It is conceivable the infected person may slip through the screening process and arrive in one of our cities. What happens to the car or taxi he hires?
I’m sure there are lots of us thinking about what would happen if an Ebola-infected traveler arrived at our airports and was detained because of symptoms of the virus. Do we need to be ready for parking-area quarantine? What are the protocols for airline personnel, first responders, and EMS staff? What do our parking attendants need to know? Fortunately, the Center for Disease Control has provided guidance for personnel who may have to deal with potential Ebola infections. The CDC provides a great deal of information on its website ranging from prevention, signs and symptoms, and diagnosis, to preparedness for health care workers.
Advances in transportation technology are making the world’s population more mobile. As a result, the threat of Ebola and other diseases hitting our shores is a reality.