Israel Steps Up Ebola Screening as Netanyahu Calls Virus 'Major Border Threat'

Prime minister orders border control to question travelers arriving from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday convened a second meeting to discuss the government's strategy for handling the Ebola virus outbreak, describing it as one of three threats against Israel's borders.

Netanyahu instructed border-control officials to question all travelers arriving in Israel from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, three of the African countries hardest hit by the deadly illness.

Officials from the Health, Transportation, Interior, Foreign and Justice Ministries attended the meeting, as did representatives of the Israel Aviation Authority, police and the army.

The new screening guidelines will be applied to travelers arriving at Ben-Gurion International Airport as well as at border crossings and sea ports, in an effort to identify individuals who may have contracted the virus. Informational signs about Ebola in Hebrew, English, French and Arabic will also be placed at all border crossings.

The directive comes just before health-care worker at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who provided care for an Ebola patient there has tested positive for Ebola in a preliminary test, the Texas Department of State Health Services said in a statement on Sunday.

The health-care worker reported a low-grade fever Friday night and was isolated and referred for testing, it said.

"We knew a second case could be a reality, and we've been preparing for this possibility," said Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the health service.

Netanyahu, in Sunday's meeting, described Ebola as one of three threats against Israel's borders along with "illegal infiltrators and terrorism."

"As part of the effort to protect its borders, the State of Israel is preparing to stop, to the extent that is possible, the entry of Ebola patients," Netanyahu said. "This is a global epidemic and we are cooperating with other countries. In addition to protecting our borders, we are taking a number of steps to isolate patients, if they arrive, and also to care for them within our health-care system. We hope that isn't necessary, but we are preparing for all the possibilities."

Meanwhile, Israeli and Palestinian Authority officials met Saturday to coordinate their strategy for handling the Ebola crisis. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, coordinator for government activities in the territories, conducted the discussion as part of the meeting of the Joint Civil Affairs Coordination and Cooperation Committee.

Officials from Israel's Health Ministry, Palestinian Authority officials from the West Bank and Gaza and the PA's representative from the World Health Organization attended the meeting. The officials agreed to continue to cooperate in additional meetings on the Ebola epidemic.