Federal officials should change screening procedures at Kennedy Airport to ensure that travelers from West African nations who might be carrying the Ebola virus are kept separate from passengers from other countries, Rep. Peter King said Thursday.
Between 70 and 100 people arrive daily from those Ebola-affected countries, mix freely with other passengers, and use the same bathrooms before they reach the screening area, King (R-Seaford) said.
"Given the high volume of travelers at JFK, it is essential that extraordinary measures are taken to intercept possible Ebola-infected passengers while keeping the public . . . [U.S. Customs and Border Protection police] . . . and other first responders safe from exposure," King said in a letter to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
A spokeswoman for DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said he would respond directly to the congressman.
King said he was prompted to write the letter after law enforcement unions whose members work at Kennedy Airport complained to him that they had to handle the body of a man who died aboard a flight from Nigeria that arrived Thursday morning.
Medical workers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention went on the plane and determined "quickly, too quickly" that the man had not died from Ebola, King said. The CDC declined to comment on the cause of the man's death.
King added that he thought the United States should suspend all flights from Ebola-affected countries and suspend visas issued to people living in those nations to keep them from taking an indirect route to the United States.