INFORMS Aviation Security Expert and Professor at the University of Illinois, Says Airports Should Screen for Ebola the Same Way They Screen for Terrorists

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Ashley Smith
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CATONSVILLE, MD – October 9, 2014INFORMS 2015 Treasurer and Professor at the University of Illinois, Sheldon H. Jacobson has taken a public stance to challenge the way airports screen for Ebola, recommending much more aggressive measures than are currently being employed worldwide.  As a longstanding expert in the field of airport security and the design of aviation security systems, Jacobson explains how his research can be applied to stem the spread of Ebola, which has become a greater threat to the U.S. and other countries over the last few weeks. Jacobson lays out his ideas in a recent opinion piece published in The Washington Post, which include airport quarantines and blood tests to prevent the virus from spreading further in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Addressing the question of how to screen inbound passengers traveling from countries that are known Ebola hot spots, Jacobson advises:

"Those...whose answers suggest an elevated Ebola risk should be subject to more severe restrictions (at exit from their point of departure), beginning with blood tests and, in extreme cases,required quarantine for up to three weeks. This may seem severe, but such consequences would also serve as an incentive for future travelers to document and create a paper trail for themselves to avoid unnecessary delays in entering the United States. Given the severity of the Ebola situation, the onus of proof must reside with the traveler to provide the necessary documentation to establish their level of exposure. Once in place, these measures should subject fewer than 10 percent of travelers to greater scrutiny.”

Jacobson also notes:

“Recently introduced procedures at five airports in the United States serve to contain the spread of Ebola from entering into the general population, but do nothing to keep people affected with Ebola from coming to the United States in the first place.  Screening at these five airports is an implicit admission that the exit screening being performed in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia are porous and unreliable.  An international effort to tighten exit screening at the airports in these West Africa countries should be a top screening priority to contain the spread of Ebola outside this area.”

Dr. Jacobson is available for interview. Please contact Barry List, Director of Communications, INFORMS at barry.list@informs.org to learn more.

Further details and recommendations stemming from his research can be found in various national press outlets, included here: http://shj.cs.illinois.edu/.

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