No Indication Fevered Newark Passenger Has Ebola: Christie

There is no indication the Liberian national who landed at Newark Liberty Airport on a flight from Brussels has Ebola, officials said Wednesday.

The passenger, who was taken to a hospital to be evaluated after showing signs of a fever, has not shown symptoms consistent with Ebola, Gov. Chris Christie said at a briefing where he signed an executive order to create an Ebola response team to coordinate preparedness in the state.

The man had traveled from Liberia to Brussels before flying into Newark on United Airlines Flight 998 just before 1 p.m., Tuesday, officials said. He waited in line with other passengers at the customs check-in, and then was singled out for  a health screening by agents because of his recent travel history, sources familiar with the screening said.

That's when officers discovered he had a fever. The passenger was transported to University Hospital, which has a contract with the Port Authority to take all of Newark Airport's medical cases.

Two sources briefed on the treatment of the patient had said he was being evaluated "as if he has Ebola" out of an abundance of caution. The patient was put in isolation and posed no risk. 

Christie said he expected the patient would be released from the hospital after he is interviewed by officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC confirmed Wednesday the man did not have Ebola.

Meanwhile, Christie urged calm as the state prepared for potential cases.

"We are not going to be in the business of stoking hysteria'' with the public," Christie said. 

A CDC spokeswoman confirmed in a statement Tuesday that the passenger had been identified "during the enhanced screening process for individuals arriving to the United States from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea."

Newark is one of five airports nationwide that have been conducting health checks on passengers whose trips began in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, where Ebola has been spreading quickly, killing over 4,500 people over the past 10 months. 

Homeland Security Department officials at the airports -- which also include New York's Kennedy, Washington's Dulles, Chicago's O'Hare and Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson -- use no-touch thermometers to check for fever, which can be a symptom of Ebola infection.

The Obama administration announced Tuesday that all arrivals from the Ebola-ravaged zone in West Africa must now fly into those five airports performing fever checks. Previously, the administration said screenings at those airports covered about 94 percent of fliers from the three countries but missed a few who landed elsewhere. 

There are no direct flights from those nations into the U.S., but about 150 fliers per day arrive in the country via various multi-leg routes.

On Wednesday, the CDC took precautions a step further, announcing traveling into the U.S. from Ebola-stricken nations will be monitored for symptoms for 21 days. That includes returning American aid workers, federal health employees and journalists, and West African travelers. 

Since enhanced screening started Oct. 11, 562 people have been checked at the five airports, according to Homeland Security. Of those, four who arrived at Dulles airport were taken to a local hospital. No cases of Ebola have been discovered through the airport screenings so far. 

Earlier this month, before the screenings began, a sick passenger was pulled off a flight at Newark and taken to University Hospital, where he was determined to have a minor medical condition. The passenger, who was also on a flight coming from Brussels, left the emergency department feeling well and was not tested for Ebola because he did not meet the criteria.

Three cases of Ebola have been diagnosed in the United States so far, two of them health care workers who actually contracted it here. The nurses in Dallas were treating Thomas Duncan, who died.

Nina Pham's condition was upgraded from fair to good Tuesday, and Amber Vinson is "doing OK, just trying to get stronger" at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, according to her mother. 

Also Tuesday, the NBC News freelancer diagnosed with Ebola while working in Liberia was declared free of the virus. 

"I'm so lucky," Ashoka Mukpo tweeted. "Wish everyone who got sick could feel this." 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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