A Front Line Against Ebola Runs Through Newark’s Terminal B

The New York Times reported: “Erica J. Sison has dealt with sick and dead dogs and cats, 40 dead lab rats in bags, trophy animals, cooked monkey meat on sticks, human skulls from Indonesia and a live Asian bat that flew out of an airplane cargo hold.

Now she is poised for Ebola, and has seen three false alarms in the last two weeks.

Ms. Sison, the quarantine officer in charge at Newark Liberty International Airport, is on the front lines of a complex system developed to protect United States borders from a “Contagion”-like invasion of rare foreign diseases. It is, she says, a bit anxiety provoking.

“I’ve learned pretty quick that I can never predict what someone is going to tell me when that phone rings,” she said… “These last two weeks we’ve been on adrenaline.”

The job is a largely unseen and unknown part of the border security system at 18 airports (including Kennedy International Airport) and two border crossings.”

“Ms. Sison, an officer in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, works for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She operates from an office at Newark’s Terminal B, the international arrivals terminal, in a secure area not far from where arriving passengers have to show their passports and are treated to C.D.C.-sponsored video monitors showing information about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa that has killed nearly 1,000 people.”

“In some ways, she is an Ellis Island of the airways, charged with ensuring that immigrants are fit to enter the country. But while some people who were ill were held at Ellis Island, Ms. Sison said, she does not hold people. If they need treatment, they may be quarantined, but only until they can be sent by ambulance to a hospital. There is a one-bed isolation room in her office, but it is more like the school nurse’s office than a space capsule.”

Click here to read the full New York Times article “A Front Line Against Ebola Runs Through Newark’s Terminal B” by Anemona Hartocollisaug.


Doctor, Did You Wash Your Hands? ™ provides information to consumers on understanding, managing and navigating health care options.

Jonathan M. Metsch, Dr.P.H., is Clinical Professor, Preventive Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; and Adjunct Professor, Baruch College ( C.U.N.Y.), Rutgers School of Public Health, and Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration.

This blog shares general information about understanding and navigating the health care system. For specific medical advice about your own problems, issues and options talk to your personal physician.

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