The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is said to be preparing a health order that would redirect travelers from Uganda to one of five U.S. airports where they would be screened for possible signs of a rare strain of Ebola which does not currently have any vaccine or therapeutics approved to treat those infected.
The East African nation of Uganda reported an outbreak of the Sudan ebolavirus on September 20. The World Health Organization (WHO) says there have so far been 63 confirmed and probable cases spread across several districts of Uganda.
The mortality rate from the current outbreak is as high as 50 per cent and out of six vaccines currently being developed against the Sudan virus, none have been approved by regulators, and half of those vaccine candidates are stuck in pre-clinical trials.
The CDC health order doesn’t amount to a travel ban or quarantine order, people familiar with the matter have told Bloomberg, but anyone entering the United States with a recent travel history to Uganda will be redirected to one of five, yet to be confirmed, airports.
There are no direct flights between Uganda and the United States, making it difficult to identify passengers who might try to evade the health order.
According to the CDC, symptom onset for Ebola can range for two to as many 21 days. The average delay between exposure and symptom onset is between eight and ten days. Unlike some diseases, such as COVID-19, someone infected with Ebola can not spread the virus until they start displaying symptoms.
One of the first patients identified in the current Uganda outbreak experienced a high-grade fever, convulsions, blood-stained vomit and diarrhoea, and bleeding in the eyes. The 24-year-old male patient died nine days after first going to a medical clinic.
The Sudan ebolavirus was first discovered in South Sudan in 1976. The WHO reports a fatality rate of between 41 per cent to 100 per cent in seven past outbreaks in Sudan and Uganda.
Commonly referred to as ‘the pearl of Africa’, Uganda is well prepared for dealing with Ebola outbreaks, but the country last dealt with the Sudan variant in 2012 and Biden administration officials suspect the official case count is just the tip of the iceberg.
Earlier this week, the CDC issued a ‘Level 2’ health alert for Uganda and advised travelers to avoid several regions where Ebola has been detected. The alert suggests travelers practice “enhanced precautions” but falls short of advice to avoid all non-essential travel.
The CDC last carried introduced so-called ‘enhanced health screenings’ in January 2020 at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic when travelers from China were initially directed to San Francisco (SFO), New York (JFK), and Los Angeles (LAX).
An Ebola outbreak in 2014 also prompted the CDC to introduce routine health screenings at a number of U.S. airports.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.