The US will screen passengers for Ebola at five designated airports if they have traveled within three weeks of their arrival in Uganda, federal officials said Thursday.
Uganda, a nation in East Africa, is battling a deadly outbreak of Ebola with 63 confirmed and probable cases, including 29 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. No cases of Ebola have been reported in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
According to US health officials, the CDC is working closely with the Ugandan Ministry of Health and the WHO to respond to the outbreak.
The US Embassy in Uganda said Thursday in a health warning that passengers who have been in the country within 21 days of arriving in the US will be directed to one of five airports: New York JFK, Newark, Atlanta, Chicago O ‘Hare or Washington Dulles.
Passengers arriving at these airports from Uganda will be subjected to temperature checks and verification of their contact details, a federal health official said. Airlines will send passenger information to the CDC so the agency can conduct health follow-up, the official said. Contact information will also be sent to state health departments for on-site follow-up testing.
The health screenings are based on the incubation period of Ebola. People infected with the virus are not contagious until symptoms appear, which can be anywhere from two to 21 days after exposure, the CDC said. On average, it takes about eight to 10 days for symptoms to appear.
Uganda is battling an outbreak caused by an Ebola strain called Sudan Ebolavirus. According to the CDC, it spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids from a person who has contracted or died from the virus, as well as through infected animals and contaminated objects. Ebola doesn’t spread through airborne transmission, the health agency said.
Symptoms include unexplained bleeding, bleeding, or bruising, fever, severe headache, muscle and joint pain, and abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. Other symptoms include red eyes, skin rash, and hiccups.
There is no vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration to protect against the Sudan Ebolavirus strain. The FDA has approved a vaccine to fight the Zaire Ebola virus based on animal testing, but it’s not considered protective against the Sudan strain. There is also no FDA-approved treatment for Sudan Ebola virus.
The CDC said in a health alert Thursday that health care providers should be on the alert for any patients suspected of having Ebola. Physicians and other clinicians should obtain a detailed travel history for all patients suspected of having the disease, particularly those who have been to regions in Uganda where there is an outbreak.
The virus has been confirmed in Uganda’s Mubende, Kasanda and Kyegegwa districts.