US to redirect flights from Uganda to five airports for Ebola testing

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

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will perform temperature checks and risk assessment on anyone who has been in Uganda for the previous 21 days, the incubation period for the deadly Ebola virus, the official said. State and local authorities will track 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 daily from Uganda are already landing there. There are no direct flights between Uganda and the United States.

Ebola virus disease is a rare and often fatal disease bleeding disease 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 by airborne droplets. It is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids, including blood, urine, feces, saliva, or other secretions from a person who has symptoms or has died from 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 screening for the virus on exit and other African countries in the region are also screening arrivals for symptoms of the virus.

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

There are a vaccine against the Zaire strain of the virus, which caused two major epidemics in Africa in 2014 and 2018 that killed tens of thousands of people. But a vaccine against the Sudanese strain in development has yet to be tested.

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