We’ve all heard the anchors and reporters on the news saying “starting this weekend airports are clamping down on passengers from West Africa” or “major changes to air travel in the U.S. to combat Ebola.” Statements like these conjure images of draconian methods being employed to anyone traveling by air, causing chaos at every airport in the country. Longer security lines, being turned away from a flight if you sneeze, taken to a stark white room for an intrusive physical exam, as if we are on guard for the Zombie apocalypse.
The hype couldn’t be further from reality.
I’m not claiming that Ebola isn’t one step from becoming a true international epidemic, because it is. But the media makes it sound like thousands of people a day cross our boarders with the intent of spreading a plague of biblical proportions.
Here’s the truth about the extra screenings:
150 passengers a day enter the U.S. from an Ebola-stricken country. They arrive through several different airports, mainly on the east coast.
350 million travelers enter the U.S. each year and only a fraction come from these affected countries. The extra screening will basically involve a temperature check and a questionnaire, so not too complicated.
Screeners at these select airports will be looking for travelers with fevers of 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. If you have a fever of 101.5 you should only be traveling as far as your doctor’s office, even if you haven’t been exposed to anything more serious than a stomach bug.
If you’re flying through one of these five U.S. airports you may see some of these extra screenings:
If your travel plans happen to include a stop in Liberia, Guinea, or Sierra Leone, the CDC has three words for you: don’t go there. Okay, they say “avoid nonessential travel” — same thing. If you’re heading for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the CDC suggests taking enhanced precautions.
I’m not worried. The odds of getting infected are slim to none (unless you are one of the generous souls who become infected while caring for a diagnosed patient who is showing symptoms).
In spite of what the panicked reporter in front of the airport says, the CDC and No Kids are pretty sure you can safely jet off to Nassau without packing a hazmat suit.
That said, DO NOT, we repeat, DO NOT crack jokes about Ebola on a plane (or anywhere else, for that matter).