A passenger died on a Nigeria-to-JFK flight after a vomiting fit Thursday — and a top lawmaker said officials gave the corpse only a “cursory” exam before declaring that the victim did not have Ebola.
Rep. Peter King said in a letter to Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection that the handling of the remains exposed serious flaws in airport preparedness for an Ebola outbreak.
Between 70 and 100 passengers a day arrive at JFK from the Ebola epicenter countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, King noted, and they have access to public restrooms and mingle with other travelers before their first screening.
“Given the high volume of travelers at JFK, it is essential that extraordinary measures are taken to intercept possible Ebola-infected passengers,” while keeping the public and first responders safe, King (R-LI) wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Customs Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske.
“These individuals transit the airport with the rest of the traveling population, including using the restrooms,” King wrote.
Rep. Peter King called the protocol followed after the passenger died “alarming.”
“It is only after they arrive at the Customs and Border Protection primary screening location that they are separated and sent to secondary inspection for a medical check and to complete the questionnaire,” he wrote Johnson.
His letter demands Homeland Security immediately beef up protocols for potentially infected passengers both in flight and at the terminal itself, prior to their reaching the screening location.