NEW YORK – As enhanced screening for the Ebola virus kicked into gear at five gateway U.S. airports, reports began surfacing of passengers being taken to local hospitals for further examination after they exhibited possible symptoms of the disease.
Tuesday night, passengers from Liberia at Dulles in Washington, O’Hare in Chicago and Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey were sent to local hospitals for observation.
A number of international passengers who arrived at Dulles last week also were taken to a hospital.
Meanwhile, the White House’s newly appointed “Ebola czar,” Ron Klain, officially began his work Wednesday. With no health experience, he is tasked with coordinating the government’s multifaceted response to the outbreak, which entered the U.S. last month through a Liberian who traveled by air to Dallas, where he died of the disease Oct. 8.
The Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday that two Liberians, traveling separately, were ordered to Chicago hospitals after they experienced nausea and other symptoms of illness during their flights.
The report followed confirmation from city officials that four Chicago hospitals – Rush University Medical Center, University of Chicago Medical Center, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and Lurie Children’s Hospital – had agreed to take Ebola patients from health care providers and other hospitals should any cases develop in the Chicago area.
One of the Liberian passengers was a child who had vomited during the flight.
The child, upon landing, was screened by federal officials at the airport and found to have no other symptoms and no known risk of exposure to Ebola.
Following city protocols, the child was transported to the University of Chicago Medical Center for observation in isolation, and the family was placed under quarantine until the medical evaluation was completed.
The other Liberian passenger was an adult who reported experiencing nausea and diarrhea.
The Liberian reported having been diagnosed with typhoid fever in August but had a normal temperature on landing and reported no known risk of exposure to Ebola.
Meanwhile, a Liberian who traveled to Newark on a United Flight from Brussels was sent to University Hospital in Newark because federal screeners were concerned he showed unspecified signs of being sick from Ebola, the local NBC TV affiliate reported.
The Liberian had waited in line with other passengers at the customs check-in but was singled out for health screening because of his recent travel history.
During the screening, federal officers discovered the man had a fever.
CDC spokeswoman Carol Crawford said in a statement: “During the enhanced screening process for individuals arriving to the United States from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, an individual was identified as reporting symptoms or having a potential exposure to Ebola.”
She said the passenger was transported to a local hospital for further evaluation.
“CDC or state/local public health officials will contact other passengers on the aircraft should it be determined that there was any risk to the other passengers of exposure to communicable disease,” Crawford said.
The Washington Post reported a total of four passengers who flew into Dulles in the past week were taken to a local hospital after enhanced airport screening alarmed officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Homeland Security.
A person familiar with the screening told the Post a 13-year-old boy and his mother were taken to a hospital last Thursday after the CDC became concerned about their symptoms.
The same unnamed source said two other passengers were also taken from Dulles to the hospital over the weekend.
The source claimed all four passengers had already been released after hospital screening failed to produce concern.