Sixty to ninety percent of the people who contract Ebola die. Africa is expecting as many as 1.5 million will have contracted the disease by mid-January. Many of these people travel and spread the disease from shore-to-shore. Screenings at airports don’t work and allowing illegal immigrants to sneak into the country is a bad idea.
There is really no feasible way to pick out Ebola patients in an airport with a thermal screening. In July, the Nigerian airport began screening for fevers which are a characteristic of Ebola. It has become an exercise in futility.
CDC Director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, is relying on airport screenings in large part but it is really a “feel good” placebo approach. It keeps the multitudes calmer but doesn’t have much efficacy,
Unless the Ebola passenger has obvious symptoms, a thermal check at an airport is meaningless.
Many passengers can have fevers for many different reasons. After the temperature is checked, the passenger is subjected to a blood test, such as a polymerase chain reaction test, a more accurate measure, however, it takes up to eight hours and is extremely unrealistic. It would grind air traffic to a halt.
The incubation period for Ebola is two days and symptoms might not show up for 20 days. Many Ebola patients don’t know they have it. It won’t show up on a thermal screen.
Fevers in Ebola patients can spike in minutes and trying to determine in advance is a futile effort.
In addition, passengers are taking Ibuprofen before going to the airport as a way of evading detection.
It should be noted that too much screening at airports make TSA agents less effective and it makes the system less secure.
Two days ago, CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said this: “…I think Dr. Lakey, Judge Jenkins and the entire team, the team of mayor Rawlings are doing a superb job. Especially judge Jenkins and his support ever the family. That’s it, to support individuals and to stop the outbreak. Thank you very much for your leadership there. In terms of the quarantine stations, CDC has done two broad things. One is to work within the affected countries to strengthen exit screening there with thermometer screening as well as questionnaires and visual inspection of individuals. That screening alone, since we began it, has resulted in 77 people not boarding airplanes who had attempted to board, including 17 in the month of September. That is a reflection of a screening process that will identify individuals who have fever or obvious symptoms and can be taken off the line of going on. We don’t have full follow-up information; know if any of those individuals had Ebola. Many had malaria, which is quite common in these countries…”
He is staunchly against limiting travel because it won’t result in zero risk but thermal screenings are ineffective and people lie on forms as we know from our first Ebola patient here in the United States.
There are efforts to develop such a test. Douglass Simpson, CEO of Corgenix, recently received a $3 million National Institutes of Health grant to develop a point-of-care test for Ebola which could be used to spot Ebola victims at the airport. He hopes to have the test by 2016.
This leaves open the question – why are we allowing our borders to remain open, providing no medical screening worth noting? Why are we continuing flights from West Africa?
Will we at least charge Thomas Duncan for lying on his form to send a very important message? We need to put laws in place with serious punishments for those who lie to come here with Ebola or who potentially have Ebola to dissuade others from doing the same.