New airport Ebola screenings do little to prevent the spread of disease

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Five American airports will begin screening fliers for Ebola following the death of the first person diagnosed with the disease in the US. But airport workers and customs officials say they're not prepared to handle Ebola cases, and health experts say the screenings won't be effective in preventing the spread of disease.


At New York City’s LaGuardia airport, 200 airline cabin cleaners began a 24-hour strike Wednesday night due to fears of Ebola exposure and other safety concerns, ABC News reports.

While the screenings will ostensibly reduce the risk of spreading Ebola, health experts agree that such screenings would not have detected Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian Ebola patient who died in Texas.

"The one thing these screenings do is give people the sense that we're doing something and that we're in control," Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University, told Fusion.

Anxiety surrounding Ebola is far more widespread than the disease itself, so it's important for people to feel confident in public health measures.

"Ebola anxiety should not be trivialized," Schaffner said. "It influences our thinking, and what our governmental authorities and representatives think and do."

Travelers arriving from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone — the West African countries hit hardest by the disease — will be checked using temperature screenings.


"We believe these new measures will further protect the health of Americans, understanding that nothing we can do will get us to absolute zero risk until we end the Ebola epidemic in West Africa," said CDC Director Tom Frieden in a statement.

Realistically though, the temperature screenings will do little to prevent travelers infected with Ebola from entering the country.


It would be difficult, for instance, to detect passengers who have been exposed to Ebola and want to make it to the US for better treatment.

"It's as simple as popping a fistful of Tylenol to lower your temperature before getting screened," Schaffner said. "These measures aren't an iron curtain - they're more like a chicken-wire screen with lots of holes in it."


Alexandra DiPalma is a producer for Fusion Lightworks, Fusion’s In-house Branded Content Agency.