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Obama Administration Ends Enhanced Ebola Screenings

The Obama administration is no longer doing enhanced Ebola screenings for travelers from West Africa, because that the World Health Organization (WHO)  has determined the region is now Ebola free.

The last day of the enhanced measures was Thursday.

The Department of Homeland Security instituted the beefed-up screenings for travelers to the U.S. arriving from West Africa in October 2014. The effort was a response to concerns about the possible spread of the fatal disease in the U.S. following the death of Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who was the first person to die of Ebola in the U.S. He’d traveled from Liberia to Dallas.

“I am proud of the men and women of DHS who executed this coordinated, fast-moving, and effective response to an unprecedented public health emergency,” DHS Sec. Jeh Johnson said in a statement. “Their hard work ensured that we were successful in protecting the United States from Ebola while keeping our employees safe.”

In the 16 months that the enhancements were in place DHS screened over 42,000 travelers from Ebola-affected countries largely in five major airports New York’s JFK, Newark, Dulles, Atlanta and Chicago.

“During this time not a single traveler exhibiting Ebola symptoms is known to have entered the country undetected,” Johnson said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the WHO’s declaration that Ebola is no longer in Guinea, “marked 42 days (two 21-day incubation periods) after the last known patient with Ebola tested negative twice for Ebola. As of Feb. 19, 2016, more than 45 days have passed since WHO declared Guinea free of Ebola virus transmission. Guinea was the last country in the region to reach that milestone.”

While enhanced precautions have ended in the U.S. the CDC said that people departing Guinea will still be subject to inspection for the disease.

“Travelers from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone are still encouraged to watch their health for 21 days after leaving one of these countries and to contact their local health departments or seek healthcare if they develop symptoms consistent with Ebola,” the CDC added.

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