Biden administration implements Ebola screening for U.S.-bound travellers from Uganda

Biden administration implements Ebola screening for U.S.-bound travellers from Uganda
Passengers make their way at the International JFK airport in New York,. Source: REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

In response to the Ebola outbreak in , the Biden administration has initiated measures to redirect U.S.-bound travellers who have visited Uganda in the last 21 days to five major American airports for Ebola screening.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an alert to healthcare workers, emphasizing that there are currently no suspected or confirmed U.S. Ebola cases from the strain responsible for the recent infections in Uganda.

As of October 3, Uganda's Health Ministry reported nine deaths and 43 total cases since the announcement of the outbreak on September 20. The CDC is implementing enhanced screening at airports as a precautionary measure.

“Out of an abundance of caution, (CDC) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will apply new layers of screening at these five U.S. airports in response to the Ebola outbreak in Uganda,” stated the U.S. Embassy in Uganda.

Travellers from Uganda are required to arrive at New York-John F. Kennedy, Newark, Atlanta, Chicago O'Hare, or Washington Dulles airports for screening. The Sudan strain of Ebola, responsible for the current outbreak, has no approved vaccine, raising concerns about a potential health crisis in Uganda.

Approximately 140 people who recently visited Uganda arrive daily in the , with 62% landing at one of the designated airports. The screening process involves temperature checks, health inquiries, and reporting arrivals to local health departments.

Dr. Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert, emphasized the importance of preparedness for possible cases in the United States. He recalled the 2014 incident where a traveller from was initially turned away at a hospital in Dallas, highlighting the need for heightened awareness.

The U.S. Embassy in Uganda assured that the risk of Ebola domestically is currently low, and enhanced screening applies to all passengers, including U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and visa holders.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra spoke with Ugandan Health Minister Jane Aceng Ocero on Wednesday to discuss Ebola and U.S. efforts to support Uganda during this challenging period. The recent death of a Tanzanian doctor working in Uganda, who contracted Ebola, underscores the severity of the situation.

In March 2021, the CDC began directing travellers who had visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in the previous 21 days to six U.S. airports to address concerns related to Ebola.

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