DHS Chief: 'We're Asking Passengers to Fill Out a Declaration About What Symptoms Do You Have'

By Susan Jones | October 9, 2014 | 8:53am EDT

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson talks about the need for vigilance against possible violent extremism at home, on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, outside a mosque in Columbus, Ohio.  (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Wednesday announced "more enhanced screening" for the estimated 150 travelers flying into the United States every day from West African countries where the deadly Ebola virus is spreading.

"The protocol is, first of all, our Customs personnel are very skilled at examining people, assessing people for a variety of reasons. And we're asking passengers to fill out a declaration about what symptoms do you have? Are you feeling ill? Where have you been for the last 21 days and where will you be for the next few days?

"And, through a non-contact thermometer, we're going to be taking the temperatures of every passenger that comes from one of the three affected countries."

Passengers with a fever and those who admit to contract with Ebola patients will be isolated -- but what if they lie?

"Well, that's why we want to erect as many checkpoints as possible along the journey, so there is outbound screening, as you know, and then there will be screening upon arrival. And the airlines themselves have been given additional information about the disease so they know what to look for on the flight. And we're taking the temperatures of every passenger. And thermometers don't tend to lie," Johnson said.

Johnson said around 150 people come into the United States every day from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, some of them traveling first to other countries, where they change planes:

"When somebody travels from one of those three West African countries, even through a transit point, we know where they're coming from. So we're able to track this. And we know that on average it's about 150 passengers a day," Johnson aid.

Johnson noted that the U.S. has the "best health care in the world. We have highly skilled doctors. And so the Ebola disease, the Ebola virus is treatable. That's important to remember. We've had one diagnosed confirmed case of Ebola that arose in this country. That was Mr. Duncan, who unfortunately passed away today.

And so we're going to keep at this, and we're continually evaluating whether more is necessary. But we've decided to go to a more active screening at the five airports (in New York, Washington, Atlanta, Chicago, and Newark) that are bringing the overwhelming majority of people from West Africa into the country."

Thomas Eric Duncan arrived in the United States from Liberia -- by way of Brussels -- on September 20, after reportedly lying about his contact with an Ebola patient when he filled out a questionnaire at the airport in Liberia.

Johnson said he's "interested in staying ahead" of the next situation, where someone tries to enter the U.S. with the Ebola virus. "And so I want to stay one step ahead of this, which is why we're erecting these enhanced screening measure at arrival airports."

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