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Liberian Ebola Patient in US Could Face Prosecution

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Thomas Frieden speaks at the CDC headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, Sept. 30, 2014.

Liberian authorities say they wish Liberian US Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan speedy recovery and hope that there would be no further infections with those he might have had contact with.

But the director of the Liberian Airport Authority said if it is determined that Duncan lied on his airport health questionnaire, he would be prosecuted upon his return to Liberia.

Binyah Kesselly said everyone who passes through Liberia’s airports is subject to Ebola screening, using forms prepared with the assistance of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

“From the morning of July 26 up until now, and continuing into the future, we have put stringent measures in place to screen and monitor every individual who comes through our airports, whether you’re leaving the country or entering. In fact, every 48 hours we review our procedures. We have actually worked with experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. They helped us with some of procedures at the airport,” he said.

Kesselly said Liberian airports have screened nearly 10,000 commercial passengers since July 26 this year.

“Your temperature is checked three times – before you enter the gate to enter the airport property, before you enter the terminal building, and then before you board the aircraft. So, we do all that’s humanly possible to screen and ensure that people who have elevated temperatures don’t leave our airports,” Kesselly said.

He said Duncan went through primary screening. If at that time his temperature had been elevated, he would have been sent through secondary screening.

The Associated Press reported that it obtained a copy of Duncan’s questionnaire, and that he denied having any contact with Ebola victims before leaving Liberia.

Kesselly wished Duncan a speedy recovery but warned that the Ebola patient could be prosecuted upon his return to Liberia if it is determined that he lied on his health questionnaire.

“We do wish him a speedy recovery and all of those who have had contact. We hope that there’s no further infection. That being said, if it is determined that he did make a false declaration and he showed this level of depraved indifference, the Liberian Airport Authority will recommend his prosecution upon his return to Liberia,” Kesselly said.

Kesselly said the effectiveness of any Ebola screening done at the airports relies on individuals doing the “honorable” and “right” thing.

“We cannot tolerate these kinds of behaviors. They put people’s lives at risk; they cause unnecessary challenges for all involved. And this is not the kind of behavior that should be tolerated,” Kesselly said.