For Immediate Release
DHS Press Office
In 2014, the world faced a public health emergency with the outbreak of Ebola across West Africa. In response, President Obama declared Ebola a national security priority and directed a government-wide aggressive response to limit the risk of the disease reaching the Homeland. Working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Homeland Security quickly established an effective screening process by funneling 94 percent of passengers originating from Ebola-affected countries into five designated U.S. airports. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) also implemented measures at all other U.S. ports of entry to conduct enhanced screening of the remaining six percent of travelers. During this time not a single traveler exhibiting Ebola symptoms is known to have entered the country undetected.
The CDC has now declared West Africa Ebola free, and today marks the final day of CBP’s enhanced screening of travelers from West Africa.
I am proud of the men and women of DHS who executed this coordinated, fast-moving, and effective response to an unprecedented public health emergency. Their hard work ensured that we were successful in protecting the United States from Ebola while keeping our employees safe.
Over the past 16 months, DHS has screened more than 42,000 travelers from Ebola-affected countries. Passengers at risk of developing Ebola symptoms were identified by CBP, then monitored by CDC and local public health officials.
The success of this effort was made possible by a whole-of-DHS effort that included the following:
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center identified travelers from Ebola-affected countries and coordinated with the passenger airline industry and the Immigration Advisory Program to ensure travelers were routed to designated enhanced screening locations. Upon arrival, CBP officers escorted the travelers to a private area where enhanced screening included a thorough interview to establish the individual’s travel history and activities in West Africa to better assess their potential exposure to the Ebola virus. Under CBP’s direction, contracted medical personnel then completed the health screening process before an admissibility decision was made;
- The Transportation Security Administration and CBP actively engaged the aviation industry, providing them with guidance on recognizing symptoms of Ebola and providing important guidance and contact information for concerns; and
- The Office of Health Affairs (OHA) provided training on proper use of personal protective equipment to DHS frontline workers and issued Occupational Health Advisories to Department components. The OHA National Biosurveillance Integration Center also monitored and reported on the Ebola outbreak, coordinating information to build a comprehensive biosurveillance picture.
While we are eliminating Ebola entry screening requirements for travelers from West Africa, CBP personnel, in accordance with standard operating procedures, will continue to observe all travelers entering the United States for overt signs of any illness, and address and refer the case appropriately, in coordination with the CDC. More broadly, while we recognize that we must treat and target every disease individually, we will continue to make use of the capabilities developed and lessons learned from the Ebola outbreak to protect the public health of the American people.
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