US & Canada

New York's JFK airport starts Ebola checks

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Media captionMartin Cetron, CDC: "This would not necessarily have caught the patient in Dallas"

New York's JFK airport has started screening to try to stem the Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 4,000 people.

Passengers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea - the worst-hit countries - will have their temperatures taken and have to answer a series of questions.

Checks at O'Hare in Chicago, Newark, Washington's Dulles and Atlanta's airport will begin in the coming days.

This comes after the first person died of Ebola in Texas on Wednesday.

Thomas Duncan had travelled to the US from Liberia, and was only diagnosed with the disease once he arrived in Dallas.

The latest figures released by the World Health Organization show the number of deaths attributed to the the haemorrhagic fever has risen to 4,033.

The vast majority of the fatalities - 4,024 - were in the West African nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

In other developments:

  • The UK should expect a "handful" of Ebola cases in the coming months, the government's chief medical adviser says
  • The Spanish nurse infected with Ebola at a Madrid hospital, Teresa Romero, improved overnight and is talking, medical sources say
  • The Confederation of African Football says it has no plans to change the January-February schedule of the African Nations Cup, after hosts Morocco called for a postponement over Ebola fears
  • The UN special envoy on Ebola, Dr David Nabarro, has warned that the world might have to live with the disease forever unless almost every country is mobilised to fight it

'Simulated patients'

The screening measures at JFK started on Saturday. Border agents will check passengers for signs of illness such as high temperatures.

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Image caption New York's authorities say the city is "particularly well prepared"

Passengers from the three African nations will also be asked about their travel history prior to coming to the US and also if they have been in contact with anyone suffering from Ebola.

If they answer "Yes" to any questions or are running a fever, a representative of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will intervene and provide a public health assessment.

There are currently no scheduled direct flights from the three countries to the US, with most passengers from Africa travelling via Europe.

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Media captionInfectious-disease specialist Dr Amesh Adalja said the measures did more for public confidence than preventing the spread of the virus

Gil Kerlikowske, commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection, said the new system provided an extra layer of assurance for the American public, and would cover 94% of travellers from the affected region.

Martin Cetron, director for the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine at the Centers for Disease Control, said that this was in addition to the 100% screening being carried out at the points of departure.

However, he cautioned that "we cannot get the risk to zero" and that the latest screening "may not have caught the Texas case".

Mr Duncan only developed symptoms a week after he entered the US.

Experts have warned that a person can carry the virus for up to three weeks before showing symptoms.

Ebola deaths: Confirmed, probable and suspected

Source: WHO

Note: figures have occasionally been revised down as suspected or probable cases are found to be unrelated to Ebola. They do not include one death in the US recorded on 8 October.

JFK and the four other airports account for 90% of air travellers arriving in the US. As many as 160 people enter the US from the worse-affected countries each day.

"There is no cause for alarm," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said earlier, adding that the city was "particularly well prepared".

"Physicians, hospitals, emergency medical personnel are trained in how to identify this disease and how to quickly isolate anyone who may be afflicted."

To test the readiness of New York, people pretending to display Ebola symptoms - the so-called "simulated patients" - have been walking into hospital emergency rooms to see if there were any weaknesses in the new system.

How not to catch Ebola:

  • Avoid direct contact with sick patients
  • Wear goggles to protect eyes
  • Clothing and clinical waste should be incinerated and any medical equipment that needs to be kept should be decontaminated
  • People who recover from Ebola should abstain from sex or use condoms for three months

Why Ebola is so dangerous

How Ebola attacks

Ebola: Mapping the outbreak

Ebola facts
People can catch Ebola if they are in direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person or animal
Early symptoms include fever, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea and bleeding, sometimes from the eyes and mouth
The current outbreak started in March in west Africa, where the worst-affected countries include Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia
It is thought unlikely that the disease would spread if it did come to the UK because quarantine and communications are more developed than in parts of western Africa
There is no licensed Ebola vaccine but treatments are in development

  • Protective Ebola suit

  • Surgical cap


    The cap forms part of a protective hood covering the head and neck. It offers medical workers an added layer of protection, ensuring that they cannot touch any part of their face whilst in the treatment centre.

  • Goggles


    Goggles, or eye visors, are used to provide cover to the eyes, protecting them from splashes. The goggles are sprayed with an anti-fogging solution before being worn. On October 21, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced stringent new guidelines for healthcare personnel who may be dealing with Ebola patients. In the new guidelines, health workers are advised to use a single use disposable full face shield as goggles may not provide complete skin coverage.

  • Medical mask


    Covers the mouth to protect from sprays of blood or body fluids from patients. When wearing a respirator, the medical worker must tear this outer mask to allow the respirator through.

  • Respirator


    A respirator is worn to protect the wearer from a patient's coughs. According to guidelines from the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the respirator should be put on second, right after donning the overalls.

  • Medical Scrubs


    A surgical scrub suit, durable hospital clothing that absorbs liquid and is easily cleaned, is worn as a baselayer underneath the overalls. It is normally tucked into rubber boots to ensure no skin is exposed.

  • Overalls


    The overalls are placed on top of the scrubs. These suits are similar to hazardous material (hazmat) suits worn in toxic environments. The team member supervising the process should check that the equipment is not damaged.

  • Double gloves


    A minimum two sets of gloves are required, covering the suit cuff. When putting on the gloves, care must be taken to ensure that no skin is exposed and that they are worn in such a way that any fluid on the sleeve will run off the suit and glove. Medical workers must change gloves between patients, performing thorough hand hygiene before donning a new pair. Heavy duty gloves are used whenever workers need to handle infectious waste.

  • Apron


    A waterproof apron is placed on top of the overalls as a final layer of protective clothing.

  • Boots


    Ebola health workers typically wear rubber boots, with the scrubs tucked into the footwear. If boots are unavailable, workers must wear closed, puncture and fluid-resistant shoes.

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