Airline passengers in N.O. react to new Ebola screenings

Airline travelers go through security checkpoints at Armstrong International Airport in Kenner. (FOX 8 photo)
Airline travelers go through security checkpoints at Armstrong International Airport in Kenner. (FOX 8 photo)

People taking flights out of Louis Armstrong International Airport were talking about the anti-Ebola steps the federal government announced Wednesday.

Thomas Eric Duncan was the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola on U.S. soil. Now Duncan has become the first Ebola victim to die from the disease in this country.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said new screenings, which include taking the temperatures of hundreds of travelers arriving in the U.S. from West Africa, will begin at five major U.S. airports.

At JFK Airport in New York, the enhanced screenings will also involve questionnaires, beginning this Saturday. The measures will be implemented at Washington Dulles, Atlanta, Chicago and Newark International airports next week.

"It's certainly scary to think that people can just like, you know, what this guy did, just came over like that," said airline passenger Jenna Rudle.

"I think it's a fine idea if that's a process that could help with the elimination, I think that's a great idea," said passenger Trish Noles.

Dr. Fred Lopez, an infectious disease expert with LSU Health, said it is a good move.

"The more we know, particularly about individuals coming from the part of the world where the Ebola outbreak is occurring, the more likely we can contain any infection that comes to the United States," Lopez said.

Experts emphasize that if someone has been exposed to the virus they are not contagious unless they are experiencing symptoms.

"Anybody with symptoms coming from that area of the world should be isolated until we know for sure whether they're infected," said Lopez.

He said air travelers should keep their Ebola concerns in check.

"So if you're sitting on a plane next to somebody who is infected with Ebola, unless there is direct contact with body fluids, you're not going to get infected. And if the patient has no symptoms whatsoever, there's no possibility for transmission of infection," Lopez said.

Jefferson Parish President John Young will hold a summit of sorts Thursday to talk about Ebola readiness on the east and west banks.

"All the major hospitals, our mayors, our police chiefs, the council, Health and Human Services, Office of Public Health, the U.S. Coast Guard and the fire departments just to bring everyone to the table. Just get ahead of the curve, make sure we have our protocols in place, and then we can use this also as an exercise for any type of pandemic going forward," said Young.

Young welcomes the added screening U.S. Homeland Security has ordered.

"I think you need to have some screening certainly because you can't be too careful. Again - no cause for panic at this point in time," he said.

Some travelers at Armstrong International said they would feel much more comfortable if the screenings the federal government is implementing were to take place at all U.S. airports.

"I mean, with people coming from different countries, yeah, I mean depending on if they can fly to every airport out of the countries, then yeah," said Noles.

"Clearly this is a fatal illness, and as such, should be respected," Lopez said.

New Orleans Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Homeland Security Col. Jerry Sneed issued the following statement Wednesday.

"The City of New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness is maintaining close contact with our partners at GOHSEP, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, and the U.S. Coast Guard to ensure that our first responders have the necessary training and are fully prepared to follow proper procedures in the event of an Ebola case in New Orleans." 

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