Originally published October 17 2014
United Airlines attempts to track down hundreds of passengers who were exposed to Ebola
by L.J. Devon, Staff Writer
(NaturalNews) The first stray Ebola patient to enter the US, identified as Thomas Eric Duncan, flew into the country undetected on United Airlines Flight 951. The previous week he had been helping an Ebola-afflicted pregnant woman in Liberia. No one recognized this as Duncan left Liberia, and his eventual entry into the US didn't raise any red flags either.
After leaving Liberia, Duncan headed to Brussels, boarding United Airlines Flight 951. From there, he zipped his way across the Atlantic Ocean to the Washington Dulles International Airport. After passing through customs and coming into contact with an unknown amount of people, he hopped onto United Flight 822 and headed to Dallas/Fort Worth. At this time, no one knew that Duncan was carrying around Ebola, because he was showing no symptoms. No one questioned where he was coming from or what he had been doing the week prior.
United Airlines tracking down passengers as CDC takes over instructionAfter admitting himself to the hospital, Duncan was returned home with useless medication. No one at the hospital flagged his condition, and he went back into the city of Dallas, coming into contact with several other people. Upon returning to the hospital a second time severely ill, doctors confirmed that he was infected with Ebola. When the news broke out, panic began setting in. Now, United Airlines is scrambling to alert hundreds of their passengers who might have come in contact with Duncan. Since Ebola has a 21-day incubation period, newly infected persons may not show symptoms for up to three weeks.
U.S. officials long refused to make Duncan's flight itinerary public, as to not frighten the many whom he traveled with and scare people away from flying, but United Airlines is releasing Duncan's flight details to the public anyway. The CDC has since then taken over instruction.
Industry trade group Airlines for America, along with JetBlueAirways and American Airlines, said they are now following guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). American Airlines spokesman Josh Freed said the company will "follow the guidelines (put) in place by the CDC specifically for airlines, and we work with our crews to protect the health of our customers and employees."
Border security debate shifts to mitigating incoming diseaseNow, a new debate is forming in America. Why aren't visitors from the Ebola-stricken countries being screened or questioned by customs officials? Why hasn't the President quarantined travel to and from these countries to protect the common good of close-quarter airline passenger and high-density populations in the US? If Liberian nationals are not stopped at the border, then who knows how fast Ebola could spread? As The New York Times reported, Duncan was helping care for an Ebola-stricken woman just days before his journey into the US. If just one customs official would have asked Duncan about his contact with Ebola patients, then the scare of spread could have been stopped in its tracks before being allowed to roam carelessly into the high-density population of Dallas.
Now, panic is setting into Texas, with people pulling their children out of school and making as little contact as possible with others in public. The people with whom Duncan reportedly came in contact are now being closely monitored, forced to undergo mandated blood draws and be locked down in their homes until further notice.
The debate on border security has shifted toward mitigating incoming disease. Jessica Vaughan, policy director at the Center for Immigration Studies, is pushing for low-scale immigration, urging immigration policy to exclude visitors from Ebola-stricken countries.
"It would be reasonable [for the president] to designate Ebola as a communicable disease of public health significance," she said. "That would enable the State Department to impose tighter restrictions on visitors." Likewise, in the past year, nearly 130,000 immigrants have flooded across the Mexican border, taking advantage of taxpayer-funded benefits. Some experts believe that the hordes of people, primarily Central Americans, are bringing a different virus with them, enterovirus 68. How easily might unknown viruses, including Ebola, cross the southern US border as well?
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