Logan won’t get stricter Ebola checks
Passengers arriving at Logan International Airport will not be subject to Ebola screenings, airport and state health officials said Wednesday, but Logan will continue to rely on infectious disease protocols that flag passengers entering the United States who appear ill.
Earlier Wednesday, federal officials had announced that Ebola screenings would begin at five major US airports, including taking the temperatures of people traveling from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.
Anita Barry, director of the infectious disease bureau at the Boston Public Health Commission, said she was not concerned that Logan was not selected to enforce additional screening measures.
“You can take everybody’s temperature in this airport . . . and you wouldn’t pick up some of the cases that may actually have Ebola,” Barry said.
In a press conference at the airport, the Massachusetts Port Authority’s fire and rescue chief, Robert Donahue, said Logan will continue with current protocols for dealing with international travelers who appear to be ill. That includes partnering with local emergency responders and using an isolation room, if necessary.
Officials noted that Logan does not have any nonstop flights to or from West Africa, but the airport hosts a number of international and domestic flights with connections to flights from Africa.
In August, about 576,000 international passengers flew through Logan.
“We’re very cognizant of the fact that we serve an international population and that really anything can be on our doorstep within 24 hours,” Barry said.
Officials said they have done outreach work in many Massachusetts communities with West African immigrants, letting them know when they should report symptoms, she said. Barry said that because of Ebola’s 21-day incubation period, she is more concerned about travelers who could develop symptoms after they have left the airport.
People need to know that they are unlikely to catch Ebola from someone sitting next to them on an airplane or on the subway, Barry said. “Education is the answer here,” she added.
Nonetheless, some travelers passing through Logan on Wednesday said they wished that officials were taking more visible steps at the airport to combat Ebola’s potential spread.
Allen Wellington, 37, of Hopkinton, who had just touched down after a business trip to Switzerland, said he was surprised there were not more protocols related to Ebola in place.
“They need to do things more proactively,” Wellington said. “They need to be more vigilant looking for symptoms.”
Ian Darke, who arrived from London Heathrow Airport on Wednesday afternoon, said more intensive screenings would help put minds at ease.
“I don’t think anything is an overreaction,” said Darke, of London.
But not all international passengers agreed.
Barbara Cassani, who returned to Boston after a trip to Lisbon, said she was not sure there was much more the United States could be doing.
When Mohammed Modupe, 59, left Nigeria, where a small number of Ebola cases were reported this summer, airport officials took her temperature and asked her questions about where else she had traveled. She flew through Heathrow for a connecting flight to Boston, without more questioning related to Ebola.
Modupe, who lives in Allston, said that she believed the screenings in Nigeria were necessary and would not be out of the question in the United States at international airports like Logan.
“It doesn’t take much to at least ask some questions and fill out more forms,” she said.