The first person diagnosed with ebola in the US died yesterday as the government ordered five airports to screen passengers from West Africa for fever.
The administration of President Barack Obama has been under pressure from lawmakers to enhance screening and even ban flights after Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan, 45, flew to Dallas, Texas, in late September after having contact with a woman who later died of ebola.
The White House said extra screening for fever will be carried out for arriving aircraft passengers from West Africa, where the virus has killed nearly 4,000 people in three countries.
The screening will start at New York’s JFK from the weekend, and later at Newark Liberty, Washington Dulles, Chicago O’Hare as well as Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta.
Authorities will use a non-invasive device to take passengers’ temperatures and have them fill out a questionnaire created by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asking for detailed information about their activities.
Mr Duncan had been in critical condition and on a ventilator in an isolation ward at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. He was also given an experimental medication to try to keep him alive before the hospital announced his death yesterday morning.
A spokeswoman for a clinic in a suburb of Dallas said it was examining a man who said he had contact with Mr Duncan and was exhibiting symptoms.
Questions have been raised on what impact a decision by the hospital to initially discharge Mr Duncan had on his treatment.
Mr Duncan was able to fly to the US from Liberia’s capital Monrovia because he did not have a fever when screened at the airport and filled out a questionnaire saying he had not been in contact with anyone infected with ebola. Liberian officials said Mr Duncan lied on the questionnaire and had been in contact with a pregnant woman who later died.
About 48 people who had direct or indirect contact with Mr Duncan since he arrived on September 20 are being monitored, but none have yet shown symptoms, according to health officials.
Health officials say the chances of ebola spreading in the US are very slim.
Mr Duncan’s fiancée, Louise Troh, who is being quarantined, wrote: “His suffering is over. My family is in deep sadness and grief, but we leave him in the hands of God.”
The hospital has not released details on how it will handle Mr Duncan’s body but said it will follow protocols from the CDC.
The guidelines recommend careful preparation of the body before movement, including enclosing it in two disinfected bags.
Meanwhile, Spanish health officials are investigating whether a nursing assistant infected with Ebola got the disease after she touched her face with protective gloves after leaving the quarantine room where a victim was being treated.
Spokesman German Ramirez said Teresa Romero says she remembers she once touched her face with the gloves.
Health officials have said Ms Romero twice entered the room of Spanish missionary Manuel Garcia Viejo, who died of Ebola on September 25 in Madrid.
She went in once to change his dressings and also entered after he died to retrieve items.
Dr Ramirez said Ms Romero believes she touched her face with the glove after her first entry into the priest’s room.