Christie: No indication Newark passenger was infected with Ebola

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NJ Burkett has more. (WABC)

A 32-year-old man of Liberian descent who arrived at Newark airport Tuesday and was rushed to the hospital to be evaluated for Ebola apparently has not been infected.

Gov. Chris Christie said at a news conference Wednesday morning that there is no indication that the passenger has been infected by the virus. Christie also said he has signed an executive order to create an Ebola virus joint response team to coordinate on Ebola preparedness in the state.

The givernor said he anticipates the patient who had reported symptoms or having potential exposure to the virus will be released from the hospital after he is interviewed by the Centers for Disease Control.

No patients have been diagnosed with Ebola in New Jersey.

Newark Liberty is one of five airports the Obama administration now requires all U.S.-bound passengers from West Africa to pass through.

The man, who had a fever of 99 when he was met at the airport, originally thought to have typhoid fever, but upon arrival in Newark he was tested and segregated, and the CDC was notified.

The passenger was taken to Newark University Hospital for further evaluation. He has traveled from Liberia to Brussels to Newark, where he arrived at Terminal C on United Flight 998.

Strict protocols require that the passenger to be quarantined in isolation while he is undergoing evaluation for Ebola. An ambulance escorted by Port Authority Police and officers from Customs and Border Protection left Newark Liberty International Airport at 4:45 Tuesday evening.

The convoy left the airport property and rushed through the streets of Newark en route to the hospital. At one point, at least a portion of University Medical Center in Newark was closed off after the ambulance arrived. Staff workers in masks were seen in the immediate vicinity surrounding the vehicle.

The passenger's condition could not immediately be confirmed.

A spokeswoman for CDC confirmed that the passenger was singled out under the government's screening procedures.

"During the enhanced screening process for individuals arriving to the United States from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, an individual was identified as reporting symptoms or having a potential exposure to Ebola," said Carol Crawford, a spokesperson for CDC in a statement.

Sources confirmed to Eyewitness News that the passenger arrived aboard United flight 998 from Brussels, Belgium. Other passengers, said Crawford, were not detained.

"The passenger is being transported to a local hospital for further evaluation. CDC or state/local public health officials will contact other passengers on the aircraft should it be determined that there was any risk to the other passengers of exposure to communicable disease," Crawford said.

The federal government is closing a gap in Ebola screening at airports while states from New York to Texas to California work to get hospitals and nurses ready in case another patient turns up somewhere in the U.S. with the deadly disease.

Under the rule going into effect Wednesday, air travelers from the West African nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea must enter the United States through one of five airports doing special screenings and fever checks for Ebola. A handful of people had been arriving at other airports and missing the checks.

A total of 562 air travelers have been checked in the screenings that started Oct. 11 at New York's Kennedy airport and expanded to four others last week, Homeland Security officials said. Four were taken from Washington's Dulles airport to a local hospital. None had Ebola.

The other airports are Newark's Liberty, Chicago's O'Hare and Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson.

The tightened rules for West African travelers come as Rwanda - an Ebola-free country in East Africa - said it would begin checking visiting Americans for the disease because of the three cases that occurred in the U.S.

The Obama administration has been under increasing pressure from lawmakers and the public to ban travel from the three hardest-hit West African nations. President Barack Obama says such a ban could make the situation in those countries worse and make it harder for foreign doctors and aid workers to bring the outbreak under control.

There are no direct flights from the three nations into the U.S.; about 150 fliers per day arrive by various multi-leg routes. About 6 percent of them were coming through airports that don't have the new Ebola screening, federal officials said.

Homeland Security officials at the airports use no-touch thermometers to check for fever, which can be a symptom of Ebola infection. People who have been infected with the virus may not develop a fever and illness for up to 21 days.


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