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John F Kennedy airport in New York has begun strict new health screenings for travellers arriving from West African countries hit by the ebola outbreak.

JFK was the first of five airports to introduce the measures, brought in to give a layer of protection after the death of the first patient diagnosed with ebola on US soil.

The four other airports - Newark, Chicago s O Hare, Washington Dulles and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International - are due to begin the checks next week.

Together, the five airports account for 94% of all travellers coming into the US from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the countries worst hit by the epidemic that has killed more than 4,000 people.

Passengers arriving at any of the airports from those countries will have their temperature taken, be assessed for signs of illness and answer questions about their health and any exposure to the disease. 

Anyone with a fever or other symptoms could be barred from travelling further or be referred to nearby treatment centres if necessary.

Officials say the screenings are not expected to cause any great inconvenience or delays as they will only involve around 150 passengers a day.

The measures were put in place after Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan died in a Texas hospital on Wednesday.

Mr Duncan s family say they still have not been informed of his death officially.

His nephew, Josephus Weeks, said: To date no one has called from the hospital. No one has told my mom, my grandma and myself that Eric passed. We heard it from the news.  

Mr Duncan, 42, was originally sent home from hospital despite showing symptoms of ebola, and was only re-admitted when his condition deteriorated.

His case sparked panic about the possible spread of the virus in the US despite assurances from President Barack Obama the chances of that happening were extraordinarily low.

Meanwhile, the British expert in charge of the UN s response to ebola has said he hopes the spread of the disease will be under control in three months.

Dr David Nabarro said the number of cases in west Africa were increasing week-on-week.

But systems now put in place, along with help from nations including Britain, could help turn the tide and reduce the number of cases significantly.

Dr Nabarro told the BBC: As a result of the sensitisation programme last month I think we have got a much better community involvement, which leads me to believe that getting it under control within the next three months is a reasonable target.

His comments come after the UK s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, said the country should expect a handful of Ebola cases in the coming months.

According to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, a nationwide exercise on Saturday to test Britain s readiness for any cases showed plans were robust .

Like the US, Britain is to bring in enhanced screening for the virus at Heathrow and Gatwick airports and Eurostar rail terminals. Details are expected in the next few days.

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