Wes McDermott (EHS MPH ’04) is part of the team the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has deployed to Dulles International Airport in Washington DC to screen travelers who arrive from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa. Dulles is one of five airports identified by the CDC for screenings, based on the understanding that 94 percent of travelers from West Africa go through one of a handful of airports, also including JFK International Airport, Newark, Chicago O’Hare, and Atlanta’s Hartfield International.
Customs officers identify travelers who should be screened based on their passports, flight information and the countries they traveled from. An EMT stands with the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs & Border Protection (CBP) officers as they perform the initial screening, which involves visual assessment and a series of questions about their health and exposure risk. The EMT takes the traveler’s temperature with a non-contact thermometer and will talk to them about self-monitoring for signs of infection.
If the traveler has a fever or has been exposed to Ebola, they are escorted to a room where a team of three CDC employees, including McDermott, complete the more in-depth tertiary screening.
“Overall people have been very cooperative,” says McDermott. “We haven’t had any hiccups in our screening process.”
The team of three includes a CDC quarantine station public health officer who will be dressed in personal protective equipment (PPE) to complete a more in-depth screening. The doctor has a second officer with him, who records the screening and results. A third team member acts as the safety, observing to make sure PPE protocol is rigorously followed and making calls to the CDC and other partners as needed to relay information, ask questions, or coordinate additional care for travelers who need it.
“There are four objectives that the quarantine stations are responsible for. The first is to make sure everybody maintains the PPE when doing assessments,” explains McDermott. “We also must do the screening with the latest protocols, work with partner agencies such as border patrol agents to share information, and report information about our screenings to the CDC.”
McDermott serves as either the second officer in the screening room or the safety. He is among the staff of three teams at Dulles who share the duty. In between screenings the teams organize their schedules and make sure their PPE inventory is sufficient.
Prior to this deployment, McDermott was serving as a public health advisor with the Washington D.C. Department of Health with a focus on bioterrorism and medical countermeasure operations.