CDC considers Ebola screenings at airports

CDC considers airport Ebola checks

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The five people diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. have heightened concerns. Now experts are looking into ways to check for symptoms at airports.

It's a concern Columbus Airport says should have a minimal impact on flights in or out of their terminal.

"They do say it's a plane ride away," says Susan Harp, Infection Control Manager for Columbus Region Hospital.

International flights are one of the main ways the Ebola virus is making its way from West Africa into the United States, and the CDC is eyeing airport screenings where international travel is frequent. It's an idea that Columbus Airport says flies around them.

"The screenings aren't going to happen here because we're connecting with Atlanta-Hartsfield," explained Sonya Hollis, Marketing Manager for the Columbus Airport. "Any of the screenings for the Ebola virus is going to go through them first."

The flights that go directly to West Africa return to one of seven airport hubs in the United States including Miami, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. These cities are where the checkpoints are being considered, to monitor passengers temperatures and travel history. It's a precaution Infection Control Manage Harp says isn't unheard of.

"They did that during the SARS epidemic up in Canada. They had thermal scanners and as you walked through those thermal scanners it showed you if you had a fever or not. And they were monitoring people that were coming in to the hospital," Harp added.

With a 21 day incubation period, health officials say it's important that, if asked, you're honest about where you traveled recently and who you've come in contact with. Although chances of a widespread outbreak are low, Columbus Regional says their staff is prepared.

"We want to detect," Harp explains. "Once we detect, if we suspect, we want to protect our employees and we do that with the use of personal protective equipment and how we handle those things. And then, of course, we want to continue on to care for that patient."

We have reached out to the CDC for more information on the plan. Our requests have not yet been answered.

Health officials say it is important to remember that Ebola is only contagious if a patient is showing signs of the virus, and even then, you have to have contact with bodily fluids to catch it.

Lastly, if you have not been to west Africa or in contact with someone who has been, chances of infection are slim.

Copyright 2014 WTVM. All rights reserved.