Friday 3 October 2014

Ebola Outbreak: US Airports plan screening of planes arriving from Nigeria

Despite the acknowledgement of the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta that the Ebola outbreak has been nearly contained in Nigeria, managers at George Bush Intercontinental Airport met ahead of a direct flight from Nigeria that arrived in Houston early thursday morning, to discuss plans to effectively screen all passengers for the Ebola virus.

The decision is a fallout of the Ebola patient and Liberian national, Thomas Eric Duncan, who flew into Dallas from Liberia on September 20 and was later diagnosed to have been infected with the virus in the US.

Three airlines operate direct flights from Murtala Muhammad International Airport (MMIA), Lagos to US cities, in addition to several connecting flights from Europe, Asia and the Middle East that fly passengers originating from Nigeria.

Arik Air has a direct flight to New York thrice a week, Delta Airlines has daily flights from Lagos to Atlanta, while United Airlines operates daily flights from Lagos to Houston.

Also, about 1,400 soldiers will head to Liberia this month to help support the fight against the Ebola virus that is spreading across West Africa, AFP quoted a Pentagon official to have said thursday.

The Army’s 101st Airborne Division, based at Fort Campbell, Ky., will provide about 700 of those soldiers, while the other 700 will be mostly combat engineers culled from army units across the force, Defence Department spokesman, Rear Adm. John Kirby said.

In the meantime, the US public health officials have said it is likely that more people will come to the country carrying the deadly virus.

“I would expect that so long as there is such a widespread epidemic in Africa, that even with good screening at the airports, etc., it’s possible there will be additional cases,” said Jesse L. Goodman, a professor of medicine and infectious disease specialist at Georgetown University Medical Centre.

“This is a global public health emergency, and I think this indicates that,” he added.
The soldiers will be among the total 3,000 US troops whom the Pentagon plans to send into West Africa this fall.

US troops will not provide direct care to patients infected with the Ebola virus, according to the Pentagon. More than 3,000 people have died in the current Ebola epidemic and at least 6,574 have been infected, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

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