What does every Ebola or suspected Ebola patient who has arrived in the USA have in common? It’s not that they came from the same African country or that they flew on the same plane, or even the same day, etc. It is that they all have flights that take them into Brussels, Belgium first before heading on to the United States. So, it was a welcome sign when Belgian authorities finally decided to begin screening travelers for the Ebola virus.
Brussels International Airport is located in Zaventem, Belgium and is a very busy airport. Being the capital of Europe makes Brussels a frequent stop for travelers from all over the world. Frequently, the round-about leading to the airport is heavily guarded by police and other security forces when a VIP is arriving or departing. Recently I flew into Brussels and spent over an hour packed in line with hundreds of travelers many of them notably African.
Being an alarmist or a germaphobe is something I have never been accused, but it seems like a good idea to be cautious with such a deadly disease. The decision to begin these measures was caused in part by an incident on a Brussels airline with an elderly man traveling to Washington, D.C. At some point during the flight the man vomited and caused some concern as he was traveling from Liberia, one of the Ebola stricken African nations.
The man ultimately did not test positive for Ebola but prior to this knowledge the Brussels airplane returned to Zaventem empty. The National Ebola Coordinator (the USA’s version of the Ebola Czar) Dr. Erika Vlieghe announced the screenings would begin this past week. Airport officials at Zaventem stated, “We have screened passengers from a flight that came from West Africa for the first time. This happened straight after they got off the plane. Everything went very smoothly and there were no suspected cases.”
Although this is a promising sign for travelers, it is not enough. Americans are fully aware of the recent case in which US Doctor Craig Spencer passed the airport screening measures similar to those now in place in Belgium. He later came down with the deadly disease and has created a small panic in the New York area. Dr. Spencer and the deceased Thomas Duncan both passed through Brussels Airport on their way to the USA.