Plane passengers hospitalized due to Ebola concerns

Last Updated Oct 22, 2014 10:01 AM EDT

An airline passenger was being evaluated at a hospital in Newark, New Jersey Tuesday due to Ebola concerns, reports CBS New York. Two others were hospitalized after getting off planes into Chicago.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesperson Carol Crawford said the Newark passenger was "identified as reporting symptoms or having a potential exposure to Ebola" during the enhanced screening process for those arriving in the U.S. from the West African nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

"(The) CDC or state/local public health officials will contact other passengers on the aircraft should it be determined that there was any risk to the other passengers of exposure to communicable disease," Crawford continued.

The Record newspaper reported that the passenger was on a flight from Liberia that went through Brussels before arriving at Newark Liberty International Airport Tuesday afternoon. The passenger was held briefly at customs at Terminal C at the airport and was then sequestered from the other passengers from the flight, the newspaper reported.

The CDC didn't name the hospital, but the newspaper reported there was a "flurry of activity" near University Hospital in Newark Tuesday night.

In Chicago, two passengers who took ill while flying into O'Hare from Liberia have become the first to test the city's new Ebola protocols, although officials say they see no evidence that either has the deadly disease, according to CBS Chicago.

One of the passengers, a child, reportedly vomited during the flight and is now being quarantined at University of Chicago Medical Center. The child was screened by federal authorities and found to have no fever and no other Ebola symptoms other than vomiting.

Separately, an adult also traveling from Liberia reported nausea and diarrhea. That passenger was taken to Rush University Medical Center for evaluation. That person is being monitored, but has not been tested for Ebola.

The two passengers are not related and were not traveling together, says CBS Chicago.

Customs and Border Protection officers earlier this month started screening passengers from West Africa who arrived at John F. Kennedy, Newark Liberty, Washington's Dulles, Chicago's O'Hare and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta airports.

Since the screenings started Oct. 11, at New York's Kennedy, 562 people have been checked at the five airports, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Of those, four who arrived at Washington's Dulles airport were taken to a local hospital. No cases of Ebola have been discovered.

Word of the latest hospitalization came as the Obama administration, fending off demands to ban travel from Ebola-stricken West Africa, instead tightened U.S. defenses against the virus by requiring that all arrivals from the disease-ravaged zone pass through one of the five U.S. airports.

The move responds to pressure from some members of Congress and the public to impose a travel ban from the three countries at the heart of the Ebola outbreak, which has killed over 4,500 people, mostly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, since it emerged 10 months ago.

Beginning Wednesday, people whose trips began in Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone must fly into one of the five U.S. airports performing fever checks for Ebola, the Homeland Security Department said.

Previously, the administration said screenings at those airports covered about 94 percent of fliers from the three countries but missed a few who landed elsewhere.

There are no direct flights from those nations into the U.S; about 150 fliers per day arrive by various multi-leg routes.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said, "We currently have in place measures to identify and screen anyone at all land, sea and air ports of entry into the United States who we have reason to believe has been present in Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea in the preceding 21 days."

Homeland Security officials at the airports use no-touch thermometers to check for fever, which can be a symptom of Ebola infection. People who have been infected with the virus may not develop a fever and illness for up to 21 days, however.

As the U.S. closed a gap in its Ebola screening, an Ebola-free African country said it would begin checking visiting Americans for the disease.

Rwanda's health minister said Tuesday that travelers who have been in the United States or Spain - the two countries outside of West Africa that have seen transmission during the Ebola outbreak - will be checked upon arrival and must report on their health during their stay.

No Ebola cases have been reported in Rwanda, which is in East Africa. The U.S. Embassy in Rwanda said that country is banning visitors who have recently traveled to Guinea, Liberia, or Sierra Leone, the three countries at the heart of the outbreak, as well as nearby Senegal, which had a single case

The change in U.S. policy falls short of the demands by some elected officials and candidates for an outright ban on travel from the West African outbreak zone. Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York described the action as an "added layer of protection against Ebola entering our country."