Ebola controls at the airport

The spreading of the Ebola virus is a worldwide concern. With countries in West Africa, specifically Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, having shown widespread transmission of this virus, passengers from flights arriving from these countries have to be closely monitored. It seems to be difficult to find efficient and effective ways of controlling and screening those who may be at risk but there are various controls that airports are trying to enforce to identify persons with symptoms of Ebola.

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While Heathrow does not have any direct flights arriving from Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea, there are many connecting flights that mean passengers from the area arrive in London. These passengers need to fill out a questionnaire regarding their current health, recent travel history and note if they were in contact or exposed to anybody with Ebola prior to flying.

Any passenger who exhibits symptoms such as vomiting, high temperature, respiratory problems or diarrhea need to go directly to a health official who will screen the passenger for fever. If the passenger knows that they had contact with an ebola patient, they will be sent to a Public Health England worker who will screen them and place them under precautionary quarantine where they will remain until blood tests are completed.

A person can have Ebola for up to 3 weeks without showing any outward symptoms of the virus. If passengers upon arrival do not have a fever they will receive information on how to contact the NHS if any Ebola symptoms arise within the 21-day incubation period. Seeing that passengers may not notice symptoms right away, it is important that they are provided with information on who to contact if symptoms do occur.

While a questionnaire and screening might seem like a good way of screening for people with Ebola, there are many who claim this is not in the least bit effective. The reasoning is if passengers are already screened from their departing countries, there is a very small chance that symptoms will start to show within the short flight time. Also, because there are no direct flights to the UK from affected countries, it is almost impossible to keep track of peoples movement when they have a layover in other countries.

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