Stepping up their vigilance against Ebola, federal authorities said Wednesday that everyone traveling into the U.S. from Ebola-stricken nations would be monitored for symptoms for 21 days. The measure impacts American aid workers, federal health employees and journalists, as well as citizens from the three worst hit West African countries.
The program will start Monday in six states that represent 70 percent of people arriving from Liberia, Sierra Leone and New Guinea, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
CDC Director Tom Frieden said monitoring would extend to other states in coming days and reach "every person coming back to the country for the 21 days they are at risk for Ebola." He said the measure would continue until the outbreak in West Africa is controlled.
"We have to keep our guard up," Frieden told reporters on a conference call.
Local and state officials will perform the daily monitoring, which may consist of keeping up with people by phone or visits. The first states are New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Georgia.
Individuals arriving from West Africa will receive "care kits" that include thermometers, detailed information on how to take their temperatures twice a day, and logs for recording the information. Temperatures must be reported to health officials at least once per day, he said.
Frieden said the message to travelers is: "If you become sick, get care quickly because that could save your life and protect your family."
The kits also will include information on whom to call if symptoms occur and a card that travelers can present to health care providers if they seek care.
CDC already was telling its own employees and other health professionals working in the outbreak zone to monitor their temperature for 21 days upon return, so Wednesday's announcement adds another step to their ongoing fever watch.
The new program comes after authorities announced Wednesday plans to funnel all visitors from the three nations through five airports where fever checks and other Ebola screening measures have been put in place.
An American video journalist who has recovered from Ebola left the hospital Wednesday and headed home to Providence, Rhode Island.
"Today is a joyful day," Ashoka Mukpo said in a statement released by the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. The hospital said testing found him free of the virus now.
"I feel profoundly blessed to be alive, and in the same breath aware of the global inequalities that allowed me to be flown to an American hospital when so many Liberians die alone with minimal care," said Mukpo, who arrived at the Nebraska hospital Oct. 6.
The virus has killed more than 4,500 people in West Africa, nearly all in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Mukpo caught it while working in Liberia as a freelance cameraman for NBC and other media outlets.
The Associated Press