WH: States to Decide What to Do If West African Travelers Don’t Self-Report Ebola Symptoms

By Melanie Arter | October 22, 2014 | 6:34pm EDT

This undated handout photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows a kit that travelers from Ebola-stricken West African nations will be given containing information cards and a thermometer and they will be required to make daily check-ins with state or local health officials to report their status. (AP Photo/CDC)

(CNSNews.com) –  Individuals from West African nations who travel to airports in six U.S. states will be tracked for 21 days for signs of Ebola, but it will be up to individual states to decide what to do if these travelers fail to self-report, the White House said Wednesday.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest called it “an additional layer that will be based upon an effort to share information with state and local health authorities so they can put in place the measures that they believe would be most effective in protecting the populations of their states.”

Screening has already begun at New York’s JFK International Airport, Washington Dulles, and airports in Atlanta, Chicago, and Newark, N.J., to catch any travelers from West African nations who may have Ebola when they arrive in the U.S.

Earnest said “screening protocols” already in place have prevented “dozens of individuals” from boarding airplanes.

“And because of our knowledge of their travel history, we can ensure that the screening measures that are in place in West Africa can ensure that those individuals are not exhibiting symptoms of Ebola. There are dozens of individuals, who based on those screening protocols that are already in place, have been denied boarding,” Earnest said.

He sidestepped a question about whether the new procedure was a way to avoid implementing a travel ban as some have called for, saying the president is “not philosophically opposed” to a ban but that medical experts believe a ban would expose Americans to “more vulnerability at this point.”

“Can we talk about the announcement that’s coming out of the CDC that there will be 21-day monitoring of people coming in from West African countries? Is that a way to try to avoid a travel ban as some have been calling for?” a reporter asked Earnest.

“I think what it is, is to try to put in place the kinds of policies that we believe will do the most to protect the American people and to protect the health of the American people,” Earnest responded.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday that these individuals will arrive to the United States “at one of five airports where entry screening is being conducted by Customs and Border Protection and CDC.”

The CDC said that 70 percent of "incoming travelers" are headed to six states – New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Georgia.

Beginning Oct. 27, “travelers without febrile illness or symptoms consistent with Ebola will be followed up daily by state and local health departments for 21 days from the date of their departure from West Africa,” the CDC said.

“And what happens if people don’t self-report their temperatures? Would there be possibly law enforcement coming to look for them? Would it go that far?” a reporter asked Earnest.

“Again this would be the responsibility of state and local officials in the states where these travelers are located, and ultimately, will be the responsibility of public health officials and in some cases, maybe even elected officials to determine what steps are needed to protect the citizens of their state,” Earnest said.

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