As 51 leaders from across the African continent arrive in Washington for this week’s Africa Summit, the U.S. is taking extra precautions to be on the lookout for an uninvited guest: the Ebola virus that is sweeping across West Africa.
“There is a screening process that individuals have to go through when they board aircraft departing the countries where this outbreak has been reported. There is additional screening that occurs when individuals who started in that region of the world arrive in this country,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been training Customs and Border Protection officers, who are often the first people to see visitors entering the U.S., to make sure they can spot the symptoms of the deadly virus.
“Because there are CBP officers who are carefully monitoring passengers who are arriving from these countries, we are in a position to ensure that public health is protected,” Earnest said. “If CBP officers do recognize an individual who appears to be exhibiting some of these symptoms, there are facilities at these ports of entry, at these airports, where individuals can be quarantined and evaluated by medical personnel.”
The administration is not considering halting flights coming to the U.S. from the countries affected by the Ebola outbreak.
“At this point there are screenings that are in place, both before individuals’ board flights in their home countries, or where these flights originate, but also after these individuals arrive here in the United States they are screened once again,” Earnest explained.
While the presidents of Liberia and Sierra Leone have decided not to attend the summit and to stay home to deal with the crisis, individuals from the affected countries will be participating in the summit.
“The United States Secret Service and the State Department have ensured that their officers are properly trained to identify individuals who are exhibiting these symptoms,” Earnest said. “There have been briefings that have been held with public health officials and with medical professionals and facilities here in the national capital region to make sure that if — again, if an individual is starting to exhibit these symptoms, that individual can be quarantined and get the kind of health care that they need.”