Increased Zika Virus Screening Deemed Ineffective for Travelers

PHOTO: An Aedes aegypti mosquito is photographed in a laboratory at the University of El Salvador, in San Salvador, Feb. 3, 2016. PlayMarvin Recinos/AFP/Getty Images
WATCH 5 Things You Need to Know About Zika Virus

While outlining its Zika virus response plan, the Department of Homeland Security said today it will not direct U.S. Customs officials to add new screening measures for travelers into the United States.

“Based on our current understanding of the virus, enhanced public health entry screening for Zika would not be effective,” a DHS statement said.

Most people who are infected with Zika are asymptomatic and, therefore, would not be identified during the screening process, according to DHS.

The Zika virus has been spreading throughout the Americas and has been linked to birth defects and other negative health issues. The virus’ spread prompted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to activate its highest emergency operations level Monday.

The White House also announced earlier this week that it was seeking more than $1.8 billion in supplemental funding from Congress to address the U.S. response to the virus.

“Just like with our response to Ebola, our response to Zika must be an all-hands-on-deck effort,” said Sen. Carper, D-Del., in a statement last month calling on DHS to provide a response.

As part of their day-to-day practices, officials look for overt signs of illness at all U.S. ports of entry and on the border

But CDC officials are not recommending active symptom monitoring and temperature checks like they did for Ebola screening.

Because Department of Homeland Security is responsible for immigration - legal and illegal - homeland security officials are adding “mosquito control measures” at facilities where people are in DHS custody in the areas of the country where mosquitoes have transmitted the virus.

Pregnant women in immigration custody who are from areas with a high incidence of Zika virus will be screened for symptoms, receive blood testing and be provided prenatal care while in custody, DHS said.