Monday, October 27, 2014

Visiting Professorship, Airport Screening for Ebola

Medical Library- University at Buffalo
I spent last week at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences as a visiting professor (Infectious Diseases). Given that UB Med is my medical Alma Mater, this was a huge honor for me.

Butler Auditorium- University at Buffalo

I am back at VCU, seeing patients and collaborating with many others on our ongoing Ebola preparedness. Although not immediately relevant to our Hospital Infection Prevention Program, I am frequently asked my opinion on airport screening and travel bans. 

This editorial published in  the British Medical Journal summarizes much of the key arguments on Ebola screening at airports. Even as we embark on airport screening, we should not fool ourselves that it will be an effective mechanism to limit the entry of Ebola into the USA. A review of the evidence, particularly for mass screening at airports during the SARS epidemic, suggests that screening, including thermal scans, will detect few cases. Many will not self report symptoms. Also, the longer the incubation period of the infection (up to 21 days for Ebola), the greater the chance of being asymptomatic at the time of screening.

Airport screening may give us a false sense of security. Efforts and resources should be directed at mass public health messages on where to seek prompt medical care  for those at risk of Ebola virus disease. 

More importantly, resources are needed on the front, in west Africa.


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