U.S. considers Ebola monitoring program at airports

The US. government is actively considering monitoring travelers coming to into the country from areas currently impacted by the Ebola virus, two people familiar with the discussions told CBS News.

The potential monitoring programs are still under consideration, according to both sources, but discussed ideas are similar to the monitoring program implemented by the United States during the 2014 Ebola outbreak.

As of February 25, nine Ebola cases have been reported in Guinea, resulting in five deaths, and eight cases have been reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, resulting in four deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

On Friday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials were discussing the necessity, scope and timeline of the potential U.S. monitoring program.

One idea for monitoring includes funneling people traveling from Guinea and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to a handful of U.S. airports to be screened, according to the two people familiar.

One of the sources said six airports are under consideration: John F. Kennedy in New York, Dulles outside Washington, D.C., O’Hare in Chicago, Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta, Los Angeles International Airport and Newark Liberty outside New York.

This funneling approach is similar to steps taken in 2014 when travelers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea were directed to five of those airports, where they had their temperature taken upon arrival. 

Between March 2014 and April 2016, there were more than 28,000 cases of Ebola in West Africa and 11,310 people died, according to the CDC.

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there is recognition within the CDC that resources for additional monitoring are stretched thin, according to one of the people familiar with the discussions. Almost 30,000 people were monitored by the CDC for Ebola beginning in 2014, an effort that required hundreds of CDC staff, the CDC said.

“This is a great example of how we have to be prepared for anything in the public health arena,” the other source familiar with the discussions said about the potential monitoring. 

In 2014, the Obama administration appointed Ron Klain to lead the U.S. Ebola strategy. Klain is now President Biden’s chief of staff.

The CDC and State Department referred a request for comment to the White House. The National Security Council did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Christina Ruffini and Max Bayer contributed to this story. 

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