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U.S. to redirect flights from Uganda to five airports for Ebola screening

The United States will immediately begin redirecting travelers from Uganda to five U.S. airports to screen them for the Ebola virus and will follow up with them while they are in the country, a senior administration official said Thursday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will conduct temperature checks and risk assessment on anyone who has been in Uganda over the previous 21 days, the incubation time for the deadly Ebola virus, the official said. State and local public health officials will follow up with them for 21 days after their arrival, the official said.

The airports are: JFK International Airport in New York, Washington-Dulles International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, Chicago-O’Hare International Airport, and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Most of the 145 people who arrive from Uganda each day already land at those airports. There are no direct flights from Uganda to the United States.

Ebola Virus Disease is a rare and often deadly hemorrhagic illness that causes fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, loss of appetite and gastrointestinal symptoms as well as unexplained bleeding. Unlike covid-19, the virus is not transmitted through airborne droplets, but is highly contagious. It is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids, including blood, urine, feces, saliva or other secretions of a person who has symptoms or has died of the disease; infected animals or contaminated objects such as needles, according to the CDC.

There are no known cases in the United States, and the government believes the risk to the public here is low, according to the official.

Uganda is conducting exit screening for the virus, and other African countries in the region are also checking arrivals for symptoms of the virus.

No cases of the new Sudan strain of the Ebola virus have been reported outside Uganda, where 44 confirmed cases, 10 confirmed deaths, and 20 probable deaths from the virus have been identified since the outbreak began in September, according to the CDC. This is the fifth outbreak of the Sudan strain of the virus in Uganda since 2000, the health agency said.

There is a vaccine for the Zaire strain of the virus, which caused two large outbreaks in Africa — in West Africa from 2014 to 2016, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo from 2018 to 2020 — that sickened tens of thousands of people. But a vaccine for the Sudan strain that is being developed has not yet been tested, and there are no treatments for the disease.

During the 2014 to 2016 epidemic that swept Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, 11 people were treated for Ebola in the United States, two of whom died. Nine of those cases were brought into the country and two others were health care workers infected while caring for a man who arrived with the disease. Both workers recovered.

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