Though San Francisco International Airport isn't presently on the Center for Disease Control's list of US airports required to screen travelers for Ebola, officials there say they're ready for the disease, if or when it hits the West Coast.
But one thing they're not doing — yet — is screening passengers for the disease. Last week, the CDC announced that five US airports would: New York's JFK International Airport, Washington-Dulles, Newark, Chicago-O'Hare, and Atlanta international airports. According to the CDC, these airports see over 94 percent of travelers from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, the countries that are experiencing the current outbreak of the disease.
Soon, however, some California airports might be added to that list. As the Chron reports, our state has asked the CDC and the Department of Homeland Security require a number of publicly-unidentified international airports in California to start screening travelers. California has nine airports with international terminals in all: SFO, LAX, Oakland, San Jose, Sacramento, Fresno, Ontario, San Diego and Palm Springs. None of them have direct flights to or from any African nations.
CA Department of Public Health deputy director Gil Chavez wouldn't name which airports he was shooting for as additions to the screening list, reports the Chron "saying the decision would be up to federal officials and would be based on the numbers of international passengers and travel patterns."
But he did say that we need to be concerned. "California’s large population and appeal to world travelers means that some of its international airports 'have potential exposure,'" Chavez told the Chron.
Here's how the screening works:
- Travelers who appear to have been in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone will be escorted by Department of Homeland Security's Customs & Border Protection staffers to an area of the airport set aside for screening.
- Trained CBP staff will observe them for signs of illness, ask them a series of health and exposure questions and provide health information for Ebola and reminders to monitor themselves for symptoms. Trained medical staff will take their temperature with a non-contact thermometer.
- If the travelers have fever, symptoms or the health questionnaire reveals possible Ebola exposure, they will be evaluated by a CDC quarantine station public health officer. The public health officer will again take a temperature reading and make a public health assessment. Travelers, who after this assessment, are determined to require further evaluation or monitoring will be referred to the appropriate public health authority.
- Travelers from these countries who have neither symptoms/fever nor a known history of exposure will receive health information for self-monitoring.
It's unclear how soon the CDC will respond to California's request for a screening mandate, but until then, ABC7 reports, CDC and County Health workers are on standby at SFO's international terminal.
And SFO says they're ready to start screening if or when the CDC says they must. Airport spokesperson Doug Yaken tells ABC7 that "since the outbreak of Ebola, we've been meeting with these organizations, we've been disseminating information, we've been reviewing our procedures, and making sure we're all on the same page."