- Associated Press - Monday, October 20, 2014

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich has called on President Barack Obama to expand health screenings at more international airports, including Anchorage, in response to Ebola concerns.

“This is particularly important should the disease spread to other countries as we will have more inbound flights with potentially contagious passengers,” Begich said in a letter to Obama, dated Friday.

Begich said such “sensible travel restrictions” must be considered to help contain the outbreak in West Africa and prevent its spread to the U.S.

Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, in a statement, said she was not certain that adequate protocols were in place to protect health care workers and the American public from any exposure to Ebola in this country.

She said until that certainty exists, the Obama administration should consider banning or restricting travel from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, nations hit hard by the outbreak.

Last week, an epidemiologist for the state, Dr. Michael Cooper, questioned the efficacy of additional airport screenings since people may not show symptoms for up to 21 days after exposure. Cooper appeared at a news conference in which Gov. Sean Parnell said Alaska was at low risk for Ebola infections but said the risk is real and that the state was taking steps to be prepared.

John Parrott, manager of Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, said the airport, the largest commercial airport in Alaska, currently has no international flights or charters scheduled. He said that is due to seasonal schedules. The airport sees domestic flight traffic, though.

He said Monday that any type of additional screening would fall under the purview of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

State health officials say there has long been a quarantine station for infectious illnesses at the airport. If airline personnel suspected someone was sick, the person would be taken to the holding area and health workers would be called in.

Begich visited with staff at Providence Hospital in Anchorage Monday and said he saw firsthand how a suspected Ebola patient would be handled there.

“Though we still need to make sure adequate health protocols are being implemented across Alaska, I was impressed by what I saw today at Providence,” he said in a statement.

Begich’s Republican challenger in next month’s Senate race, Dan Sullivan, supports travel restrictions from countries in West Africa but believes Obama needs to lay out a comprehensive plan for addressing Ebola, Sullivan spokesman Mike Anderson said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide