Israel Stages Ebola Screening Drill at Ben-Gurion Airport

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Airplanes parked at Ben-Gurion International Airport.Credit: Nir Keidar

Israel held a drill at Ben-Gurion International Airport Friday morning to practice identifying Ebola patients from West African countries plagued by the disease.

Taking part were the police, the airports authority and the immigration authority, as well as the health and interior ministries. In the exercise, officials also practiced procedures for quarantine, initial care and transfer of patients to hospitals.

Three people said to have high temperatures arrived at the airport from countries afflicted by Ebola. The mock patients were quarantined at the airport’s clinic before being transferred to a hospital by the Magen David Adom ambulance service.

The drill covered all procedures from initial questioning to evacuation and hospital treatment.

On Thursday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a meeting on the issue, discussing government agencies’ abilities to halt the spread of the virus should it enter Israel.

Netanyahu ordered increased preparedness at all entry points into Israel, whether land, sea or air. This includes temperature checks for all passengers arriving from afflicted countries.

Health Minister Yael German, Health Ministry Director General Arnon Afek and Ben-Gurion chief Shmuel Zakai took part in the meeting by telephone.

Meanwhile, Madrid-Barajas Airport launched emergency measures Thursday after a passenger arriving on an Air France flight was suspected of possibly having Ebola, a spokeswoman for airports operator Aena said.

Spain’s Health Ministry confirmed that an Ebola emergency protocol had been set in motion but declined to give details.

Aena and Air France said in separate statements that a passenger on Air France 1300 from Lagos via Paris had started shaking during the flight. Air France said the other passengers disembarked from the plane, which will now be disinfected. The return flight has been canceled.

Spain’s government has stepped up its response to suspected Ebola cases in the wake of a health scare when a nurse in Madrid became the first person outside Africa to become infected with the disease in the current outbreak.

The death toll from the Ebola crisis will rise to more than 4,500 this week from among 9,000 people infected by the disease, a top official with the UN health agency said Thursday.

Dr. Isabelle Nuttall, director of the World Health Organization’s global capacities, alert and response, said new numbers show the outbreak was still hitting health workers hard, with 2,700 infected and 236 dead, mainly because Ebola victims are most contagious around the time they die.

Nuttall said the focus of the world’s efforts should remain on the three West African countries where the outbreak has been spreading out of control: Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

“Our data shows that cases are doubling every four weeks. The disease is still widespread in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and there is persistent transmission of the virus,” she told a news conference in Geneva.

The second nurse to contract Ebola in the United States was receiving care at an Atlanta hospital Thursday, a day after the news emerged that officials did not stop her flying on a commercial flight even after she reported a slight temperature.

The nurse, 29-year-old Amber Vinson, flew from Cleveland to Dallas on Monday, a day before she was diagnosed with Ebola, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

CDC Director Thomas Frieden had told reporters it was very unlikely that other passengers were infected because Vinson did not vomit and was not bleeding on the flight, but said she should not have been aboard.

But a federal source said Wednesday that Vinson had told the CDC her temperature was 99.5 Fahrenheit (37.5 Celsius) but “was not told not to fly” because that was below the CDC’s temperature threshold of 100.4 Fahrenheit (38 Celsius).

The Danish branch of medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said in a statement that the test was being carried out on one of its employees who had returned from West Africa and felt a “slight rise” in temperature.

A spokesperson for Hvidovre Hospital on the outskirts of Copenhagen said a test was being carried out but could not give further details.

“A blood sample from the patient will be analyzed by the Statens Serum Institute and a result is expected later today,” the Health and Medicines Authority said.

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