Starting Thursday, March 4, 2021, airlines and other aircraft operators will be required to collect and transmit contact information to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for appropriate public health follow-up and intervention for all passengers boarding a flight to the United States who were in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) or the Republic of Guinea within the 21 days before their arrival in the United States to avoid Ebola outbreak.
There are currently outbreaks of Ebola Virus Disease (Ebola) in DRC and Guinea. The ability to identify and locate people in the U.S. who may have been exposed to a communicable disease, such as Ebola, abroad is critical to help prevent the spread of disease within U.S. communities. Having access to travelers’ contact information will allow U.S. federal, state, and local health departments and agencies to provide health information, monitor travelers for signs and symptoms of Ebola, and ensure travelers who develop symptoms are quickly isolated and receive appropriate medical evaluation and care.
Signs and Symptoms of Ebola Virus
Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after contact with the virus, with an average of 8 to 10 days. The course of the illness typically progresses from “dry” symptoms initially (such as fever, aches and pains, and fatigue), and then progresses to “wet” symptoms (such as diarrhea and vomiting) as the person becomes sicker.
Primary signs and symptoms of Ebola often include some or several of the following:
- Aches and pains, such as severe headache, muscle and joint pain, and abdominal (stomach) pain
- Weakness and fatigue
- Gastrointestinal symptoms including diarrhea and vomiting
- Abdominal (stomach) pain
- Unexplained hemorrhaging, bleeding or bruising
- Other symptoms may include red eyes, skin rash, and hiccups (late stage).
EVD is a rare but severe and often deadly disease. Recovery from EVD depends on good supportive clinical care and the patient’s immune response. Studies show that survivors of Ebola virus infection have antibodies (proteins made by the immune system that identify and neutralize invading viruses) that can be detected in the blood up to 10 years after recovery. Survivors are thought to have some protective immunity to the type of Ebola that sickened them.
The CDC Order
This order follows the February 2020 interim final rule that authorized CDC to require airlines and other aircraft operators to collect certain data from passengers before they board a flight to the United States, and to provide the information to CDC within 24 hours of a CDC order.
“Timely public health follow-up requires health officials to have immediate access to accurate and complete contact information for travelers as they arrive in the United States,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “Inaccurate or incomplete contact information reduces the ability of public health authorities to swiftly protect the health of travelers and the public. Any delay in contacting exposed individuals can increase the likelihood of disease spread.”
The U.S. government will also begin to redirect air passengers from DRC and Guinea to six U.S. airports where over 96% of air passengers from these countries already arrive. The six airports include New York (JFK), Chicago (ORD), Atlanta (ATL), Washington D.C. (IAD), Newark (EWR), and Los Angeles (LAX). Passengers can expect their contact information to be verified by U.S. government officials on arrival to ensure it is accurate and complete. CDC will share contact information securely with state and local health departments for passengers’ final destinations in the United States.