Travelers from the three West African countries affected by the Ebola outbreak will be routed through one of five American airports that have enhanced Ebola screening measures in place, the Department of Homeland Security announced this week.

The move falls short of the all-out travel ban that many lawmakers say they would like to see, but does mark an increase in U.S. efforts to stop the spread of Ebola. All travelers flying from Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone will be required to enter the U.S. at either New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Washington’s Dulles International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport or Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

According to DHS, measures at the five airports have been put in place to:

  • Identify travelers from Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone.
  • Isolate those travelers to have them fill out questionnaires and provide contact information.
  • Take travelers’ temperatures and refer them to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention if necessary for further assessment.
  • Encourage travelers to seek medical care at the first sign of illness or potential illness.

The screening measures were put into place at Kennedy Airport Oct. 11 and at the other four airports Oct. 16. DHS now says it will “exercise its authority” to ensure that all travelers flying from any of the three countries will enter the U.S. only via one of the five airports.

According to DHS data, since enhanced screening began, 562 people have been tested, a few have registered high temperatures, but none have tested positive for Ebola.

A number of countries in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean have implemented stringent travel bans or restrictions, but so far the U.S. and most European countries have held back and opted for health screening measures instead. President Obama told reporters last week that while he is not opposed to a travel ban in principle, experts in infectious disease have said that screening passengers from West Africa is more effective than restricting travel.

BAL Analysis: Travelers flying to the U.S. from Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone, regardless of nationality, should plan to enter through one of the five designated airports.

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