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Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske's Remarks at Joint CBP/CDC Press Conference on Enhanced Screening at JFK

Release Date: 
October 11, 2014

Good morning, thank you all for joining us today. 

I would like to announce that U. S. Customs and Border Protection beginning today, enhanced passenger processing protocols will begin for travelers entering the United States who have traveled from or through the Ebola-affected countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone here at John F. Kennedy International Airport.  This is being done in coordination with our partners at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As you know, CBP is responsible for securing our nation’s borders and safeguarding the American people from harm at and beyond our borders.  CBP and CDC have a long-standing relationship at the ports of entry.  We work closely together to recognize the signs and symptoms of international travelers who may be ill with a communicable disease of public health significance such as Ebola. 

CBP and the CDC have closely coordinated to develop policies, procedures, and protocols to identify travelers to the United States who may have a communicable disease, responding in a manner that minimizes risk to the public.

CBP uses a layered approach to ensure there are varying points in the process at which an ill individual could be identified, so that no single point of failure exists.  CBP is focused on protecting the air traveling public and is taking steps to ensure that passengers with communicable diseases like Ebola are identified, isolated, and quickly and safely referred to medical personnel.

The expanded screening measures provide an additional layer of protection to the already established protocols to minimize the risk of another case of Ebola in the United States.

In addition, CBP will begin enhanced passenger processing protocols at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Dulles International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Newark International Airport. These five airports will allow for enhanced screening of more than 94 percent of travelers from the affected regions to the United States.

Let me outline the new protocols.

For each traveler who has transited from or through one of the affected countries, CBP officers will provide the CDC fact sheet outlining signs of symptoms of Ebola.

The passenger will then be escorted to a private area where the individual completes a CDC questionnaire and contact information form.

CBP authorized and coordinated medical staff will take the traveler’s temperature and assess if it is within the CDC normal threshold.

If the traveler has a fever or other symptoms, or has been exposed to Ebola, CBP will then refer the traveler to CDC for a public health assessment.

From there, the CDC determines whether the traveler can continue to travel, is taken to a hospital for further evaluation, or referred to a local health department for further monitoring.

CBP is continually providing updated guidance to its frontline personnel regarding Ebola.  This includes background on the current outbreak and impacted regions; origin, pathology, and mode of transmission; symptoms; and operational procedures and precautions for processing passengers showing signs of illness. 

A CDC Quarantine Office liaison is co-located with CBP and continues to provide subject matter expertise and facilitate requests for information between the two organizations.  Additionally, CDC provides “Do Not Board” notifications to CBP regarding individuals who are considered to be infected with a highly contagious disease, present a threat to public health, and should be prevented from traveling via commercial aircraft. Once passengers arrive in the United States, they are subject to additional measures.

As part of every inspection, CBP officers at all ports of entry conduct passive surveillance of travelers, which includes visual observation during primary processing and notification to the CDC or U.S. public health officials, as appropriate. 

CBP officers are trained in illness recognition by the CDC.  Officers look for overt signs of illness and can obtain additional information from the travelers during the inspection interview.  If a traveler is identified with overt signs of a communicable disease of public health significance, the traveler is isolated from the traveling public and referred to CDC’s Regional Quarantine Officers or local public health for medical evaluation.

The CDC maintains jurisdiction to determine whether to detain, isolate, quarantine, or issue monitoring orders to potentially infected arrivals. CBP personnel may be called upon to help with enforcement of the CDC’s determinations, and they stand ready to help.

CBP has distributed health advisories to all travelers arriving in the U.S. from the Ebola-affected countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.  These advisories provide the traveler with information on Ebola, health signs to look for, and information for their doctor should they need to seek medical attention in the future.

CBP and the Transportation Security Administration have posted messages from the CDC at select airport locations that provide awareness on how to prevent the spread of infectious disease, typical symptoms of Ebola, and instructions to call a doctor if the traveler becomes ill.

CBP personnel at all U.S. ports of entry continue to observe travelers entering the United States for general overt signs of illnesses and will continue to provide travelers with the CDC fact sheet.

CBP and CDC will continue to assess the risk of the spread of Ebola into the United States, and take additional measures, as necessary, to protect the American people.  

I want to thank our CBP officers at the ports of entry for their dedication and vigilance to keeping our country safe and for their unwavering dedication to the CBP mission.

CBP is always assessing the measures we have in place and continues to look at any additional actions that can be taken to ensure the safety of the American people.

Last modified: 
February 3, 2021