Congressman Peter King (R-NY) is outraged after Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials dismissed Ebola after a "cursory" exam of an African man, who died on a plane to JFK Airport Thursday in a fit of vomiting.
The unnamed 63-year-old had boarded an Arik Air plane out of Lagos, Nigeria the night before, a federal law enforcement source told the New York Post. While in the air, the man vomited in his seat repeatedly, and before landing in New York he died on the plane.
The 145 frightened passengers were kept on board as CDC officials and police entered the plane at around 6 a.m. when it landed, but after a very brief examination that apparently did not include a blood test with lab results, they claimed the man had not died from the lethal virus.
“It was what I was told a cursory examination. ...They were told there was no danger because the person did not have Ebola,” King said. "Their (passengers') concern was, how could you tell so quickly? And what adds to the concern is how wrong the CDC has been over the past few weeks."
Indeed, the US experienced its first case of Ebola last month when Thomas Eric Duncan of Liberia brought the disease in.
CDC protocol evidently was not enough to prevent two health care workers in Dallas from contracting the virus, and there are fears that they may have spread it further.
And it also has quietly lowered the "critical temperature" for detecting the fever characteristic of Ebola, after one of the health care workers' symptoms slid by undetected.
"We changed to 100.4 after the first nurse presented to hospital with symptoms of disease and her temp was not the 101.5 that Ebola patients usually present when they are having vomiting diarrhea, etcetera," CDC spokesman Thomas Skinner told the Daily Caller on Wednesday.
Additional alarm was raised after the second nurse, Amber Joy Vinson, was found to have boarded a flight from Cleveland to Dallas showing signs of the disease - but may have been cleared by a CDC worker to travel since her own fever was at just 99.5F.
Thursday's passenger came from Nigeria, while the epidemic has been centered in the West African nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. However, Nigeria has already had 19 confirmed cases of the virus in addition to other possible unreported cases.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said there have been no new cases known to have occurred in the last month in Nigeria, meaning that if by Monday that continues the country will be declared "Ebola-free" - meaning it still has not been declared as such.
"Step up security protocol"
King was particularly concerned about the handling of the case, noting that sources said "the door (to the terminal) was left open, which a lot of the first responders found alarming." The body was handed over to Port Authority police to dispose of after the "cursory" exam.
The congressman wrote to the Department of Homeland Security demanding tougher protocols, while warning that 70 to 100 passengers arrive at JFK each day from the three West African countries stricken by the disease.
"These individuals transit the airport with the rest of the traveling population, including using the restrooms," King wrote Thursday. "Only after they arrive at the Customs and Border Patrol primary screening location that they are separated and sent to secondary inspection for a medical check and to complete the questionnaire."
"I believe there should be a suspension of direct flights and connecting flights from these three countries," King said. "And maybe anyone with a visa from those countries, and who has been living in those countries, should be barred" from entering the US.
The statement comes after experts have warned US President Barack Obama showed laxness against the Ebola threat despite clear warnings from US-funded studies showing the danger. Experts have also criticized the position of Obama and the UN in keeping transit open from West Africa on the claim that closing it would somehow prevent the ability to fight Ebola.
Ebola has already infected at least 9,000 people and killed over 4,500 in West Africa; WHO reported on Tuesday that with unofficial figures included, the disease is showing a 70% rate of mortality, much higher than its traditional 50% rate.
It also warned that by December the number of infections every single week in West Africa is liable to skyrocket to 10,000 people.
The disease has not only spread to the US; on Tuesday, a UN worker infected with Ebola died after travelling to Liberia to treat the disease. There have also been several cases of infected British nationals recorded in Macedonia to the north of Greece, and a Spanish nurse became the first to contract Ebola outside of West Africa last week.