WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is calling on the Federal Aviation Administration to take precautions to prevent the spread of Ebola in the United States.
Following the first confirmed case of the deadly virus inside the U.S., the potential 2016 presidential contender sent a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta asking what measures the agency is taking to prevent additional cases of Ebola to come to the U.S.
“Given the severity of this virus and the fact that its spread to Texas has been associated with travel, it is imperative that the FAA take every available precaution in preventing additional cases from arriving in the United States,” Cruz said in the letter.
In a statement, Cruz blamed the White House’s “unclear approach” to dealing with the Ebola threat.
“Due to the Obama Administration’s unclear approach to addressing the threat of the Ebola virus, Americans – particularly the Texans who have possibly been exposed – deserve specific answers to how the administration is addressing travel to and from the countries impacted by the disease,” the Republican senator said.
Cruz submitted five questions to Huerta, asking the FAA administrator what training is being provided to airline carriers and crew members to identify Ebola symptoms before a passenger boards a flight; what specific action the FAA has taken since the virus was first reported in West Africa earlier this year; does the FAA intend to limit or suspend air travel to countries where the outbreak is prevalent; will passengers be notified they traveled with an Ebola patient once a case is confirmed; and does the FAA have any projections on how many potential Ebola cases may arrive in the U.S.
The first Ebola diagnosis in the nation has raised concerns about whether the disease that has killed 3,300 people in West Africa could spread in the U.S. Federal health officials say they are confident they can keep it in check.
The virus that causes Ebola is not airborne and can only be spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids — blood, sweat, vomit, feces, urine, saliva or semen — of an infected person who is showing symptoms. Those fluids must also have an entry point.
Ebola dried on surfaces can survive for several hours, according to the CDC. For example, people might get infected by handling soiled clothing or bed sheets and then touching their mouth, or if they are not wearing gloves while doing those tasks and have a cut on their hand.
Thomas Eric Duncan’s neighbors in the Liberian capital believe he become infected when he helped a sick pregnant neighbor a few weeks ago. It was not clear if he had learned of the woman’s diagnosis before traveling.
Nonetheless, Liberian authorities announced plans to prosecute Duncan when he returns, accusing him of lying about not having any contact with an infected person.
Duncan filled out a form Sept. 19 about his health and activities before leaving for Dallas. Among the questions on the form, obtained by The Associated Press, one asked whether Duncan had cared for an Ebola patient or touched the body of anyone who had died in an area affected by Ebola. He answered no to all the questions.
Duncan arrived in Dallas on Sept. 20 and fell ill a few days later. An emergency room sent Duncan home last week, even though he told a nurse he had been in West Africa.
In a statement emailed late Thursday, the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said it followed communicable disease protocols by asking Duncan if he had come into contact with anyone who was ill, to which he replied he had not.
A flaw in the electronic health records systems led to separate physician and nursing workflows, meaning the travel history documented in the nursing portion did not show up in the physician’s workflow, hospital spokesman Wendell Watson said. He said the system has been corrected.
Duncan’s symptoms included a 100.1 F temperature, abdominal pain, a headache and decreased urination, the hospital said. He said he had no nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, and, based on that, the hospital decided to release him.
He returned to the hospital two days later and has been kept in isolation there since Sunday. Duncan was listed Thursday in serious but stable condition.
Also late Thursday, NBC News reported that an American freelance cameraman working for the network in Liberia has tested positive for the virus and will be flown back to the United States along with the rest of the NBC News crew.
The network is withholding the freelancer’s name at his family’s request.
Liberia is one of the three countries hit hardest in the epidemic, along with Sierra Leone and Guinea.
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