Non-Contact Temperature Screenings Begin at Dulles Thursday

Temperature screenings for travelers coming from West Africa begin Thursday at Dulles International Airport.

The new screenings also will be implemented at a handful of other airports in the United States, where about a plane a day has stopped or diverted for sick passengers and flight crews taking precautions because of the Ebola virus.

The screening station was set up by mid-morning in the customs area inside Dulles, though the first flights with passengers traveling from West Africa were not expected to arrive until later in the afternoon.

People traveling from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are being checked. Passengers are asked about exposure to anyone sick, and their temperature taken with no-touch thermometers.

Airport officials expect to screen 15 to 55 people per day.

Passengers from other African countries told News4 that they, too, have had their temperatures taken at African airports, before they flew to the U.S.

Ncosi Dube, who was traveling from Zimbabwe via South Africa, said he was screened several times. "It's a necessary evil, I guess," he said.

"I think they are doing what they can," said Joe Filkins, who was traveling from Ethiopia. "I don't think there is any easy answer."

Robyn Bess, a nurse who lives in Qatar, agreed to let News4 try one of the non-contact thermometers. She was 96.6 degrees – a little low, but normal for her, she said.

That’s one of the challenges with the devices: What temperature is too high or too low? Parameters must be figured out.

Bess believes what this really comes down to is people telling the truth.

"We really have to start with individuals being honest about what contacts they’ve had if they’ve come from the west African region, and I don't think that temperature checks is going to stop it all," she said.

Temperature checks started last weekend at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport. Chicago O'Hare, Atlanta Harts Field Jackson and Newark also will start temperature checks. They started at London's Heathrow Airport on Tuesday.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden reminds this is a battle against an invisible enemy.

"It's a virus that's tough to fight, but together, I'm confident that we will stop it," he said.

Some signs of fear were on display at Dulles on Thursday, with some travelers wearing face masks in the airport.

The Centers for Disease Control say you cannot contract Ebola through the air, water or food. People can only become infected if they come in contact with the bodily fluids of a patient currently showing signs of the disease.

Still, some passengers said Thursday that the U.S. should consider a ban on flights from West Africa.

"I can't understand why it hasn't been in place since the beginning," said one man at Dulles.

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