In the 2013 film "World War Z," Israel combats a global zombie infection by instituting a quarantine and erecting a wall to block those who have been infected from entering.
Now, an Israeli researcher who is a leading international expert on Ebola and the hemorrhagic fever virus Marburg has proposed a “simple” and “obvious” measure to contain the spread of Ebola: screening all airline passengers for body temperature, not just those traveling from the countries hit hardest by the outbreak.
Dr. Leslie Lobel of Israel’s Ben-Gurion University has also criticized U.S. policy as “lagging behind.”
“Fifty years ago, we were dealing with eradicating polio, smallpox and yellow fever which had similarly high mortality rates,” Lobel said according to the Times of Israel. “Today, most of the world seems to understand the need to screen passengers in airports using infrared cameras for elevated temperature as a simple precaution — the U.S. is lagging behind.”
A medical team wears protective clothing and carry a stretcher during Ebola drill held at the Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 17, 2014. (Photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
“Even if someone [has] the flu, it is a public health issue and the person should be quarantined until we know if it’s a virulent strain that might cause public health problems and was transported from another part of the world,” Lobel told the Jerusalem Post. “The degree of inaction regarding viral disease in travelers is breathtaking and will one day be something we all regret.”
“I have been saying for a long time that everyone arriving at [Israel’s] Ben-Gurion Airport should have their temperature measured by infrared cameras,” Lobel said.
Lobel makes research trips to West Africa five times a year to study the immune responses of survivors of the infection, and part of his research is funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
“There are plenty of tests that can be performed on travelers with fever that can rule out diseases that need quarantine,” he said. “Although some tests are rapid, others might take a couple of hours. It’s a small price to pay for the heath of our population.”
Israel on Sunday expanded the screening of airline passengers for Ebola to include everyone who flies to Israel from Africa. Before the weekend, only passengers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea were screened.
Because there are no direct flights from the western African nations most plagued by Ebola, Israeli authorities decided to widen the screening to all inbound flights from Africa to cover those passengers who may have made connections from the stricken countries, Haaretz reported.
Passengers were examined in a separate terminal where they were to undergo an interview and have their temperature taken, director of passenger services at Ben-Gurion Airport Shimshon Katz told Israel’s Army Radio Sunday.
Israel’s health ministry is now considering using infrared cameras for widespread fever screening of passengers in the future as Lobel has promoted, according to the ministry's director Arnon Afek.
Israel and Palestinian officials have met over how to coordinate their efforts to prevent the arrival of Ebola in their neighborhood.
“Israel is prepared to stop, as much as is possible, the entry of Ebola patients into our borders, as part of our general efforts to defend our borders from illegal infiltrators and terror,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week.
“The world has been asleep for 50 years regarding infectious diseases and Ebola is the wake-up call,” Ebola expert Dr. Lobel observed.