As international news is latching onto the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa, a July 30, 2014 article on the New York Post announced that airports are on high alert and employees are trained to spot the symptoms of Ebola in incoming passengers.
On the surface, it may be easy for some to worry that an outbreak may happen in the United States. After all, there was the incident with Patrick Sawyer who had Ebola but died before he boarded a plane to Minnesota. Another America, Dr. Kent Brantly, is in Liberia currently fighting for his life after being infected while caring for patients with the disease. While those two Americans were in Africa at the time of infection, should people be worried that someone could bring it to the United States?
In order to answer this question, one must look at two things. Firstly, be smart and aware of surroundings, but don’t live in fear. Doesn’t this sound familiar? It is the logic that many have implemented as they continue to travel and fly after September 11, 2001. Even though the US government has taken measures to prevent Ebola from reaching US soil, it is still important for people to educate themselves in order to prevent anxiety. According to the CDC, the symptoms of Ebola include fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, weakness, red eyes, diarrhea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Passengers should really keep these symptoms in mind when on a plane because no one who is air sick, for example, wants to be accused of having Ebola! But on the other hand, if someone sees a passengers who is displaying these symptoms during the flight, politely (and quietly to avoid embarrassment for everyone) tell a flight attendant.
Airport employees, including flight attendants and customs officials, have been trained to spot the signs of Ebola in a person. With this being said, keep in mind that international passengers and people who travel abroad are already profiled when they await entry into the United States. Every international flight that comes into a port of entry is given a boarding card with preliminary questions. One of the questions is regarding dealing with animals, farms, or wildlife environments. According to the World Health Organization, Ebola will come from certain infected animals. If a passenger ticked yes on this question, he will likely have extra screening regardless of the current outbreak simply because of already existing profiling in US Homeland Security policy. But regardless, immigration officials do profile people based on where they have traveled. Rest assured that if someone has just come from Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea, where the center of the Ebola outbreak is, they will be put under more scrutiny than usual.
The average person does not need to worry about becoming infected. But if anyone feels a need to lower anxiety over the matter, then they need to remember that there are already policies in place and to educate themselves wisely.