Bird Flu Puts American Airports on Alert - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

10/27/05

Bird Flu Puts American Airports on Alert

At Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta deep within Concourse E, where all the international passengers go through customs, doctors at this medical quarantine station prepare to care for Bird Flu victims arriving from other countries, and keep them from spreading their infections to anyone in the U.S.

"We look at Concourse E and the personnel out here as one of the first lines of defense to catch any sort of problems," says Paul Meyer of the Atlanta department of Aviation. Doctors can quarantine up to 400 arriving passengers at a time. "Going to a location where we can off-load them into a relatively comfortable area, while the initial patient or sentinel patient is being evaluated," says Bruce Jeffries of the Georgia Division of Public Health. The plan depends on pilots of international flights calling ahead to the Atlanta Quarantine Station, to let everyone here know that there's a passenger on board with a possible infectious disease, who may have infected everyone on board. "Then we can be in a position to actually meet the aircraft on arrival, to prevent the introduction of communicable diseases into the united states," says Dr. David Kim of the CDC.  He also says his tools here include two isolation rooms. The air that's in there gets discharged straight to the outside.

The CDC has had to quarantine arriving passengers at least twice in the past three years.  "The system worked, they were evaluated, they were isolated, you know, they weren't allowed to travel on, until they were cleared by medical personnel. The team is armed to stop any infectious diseases from getting into the U.S. At this port of entry. So doctors are confident they can stop bird flu. Hopefully it'll never make it here. And if it does, you know, we'll catch it before it ever, ever leaves the airport," says Paul Meyer.

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