WASHINGTON — Federal officials said Wednesday that they would begin temperature screenings of passengers arriving from West Africa at five American airports, beginning with Kennedy International in New York as early as this weekend, as the United States races to respond to a deadly Ebola outbreak.
Travelers at the four other airports — Washington Dulles International, O’Hare International, Hartsfield-Jackson International and Newark Liberty International — will be screened starting next week, according to federal officials.
The screenings will be for passengers arriving from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the three countries hardest hit by the epidemic.
White House officials declined to comment on the new screenings. In the past several days, administration officials have signaled that they were considering new screenings in the United States that would add to the procedures already in place in African countries where the disease is rampant.
President Obama indicated on Monday his desire to increase screenings, saying after a briefing with top health officials that the government was already planning a new approach.
“We’re also going to be working on protocols to do additional passenger screening, both at the source and here in the United States,” Mr. Obama said.
The screenings are a shift in policy from last week, when senior White House officials and doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta resisted calls for trying to take passengers’ temperature as they entered the United States.
In an interview last week, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the director of the C.D.C., questioned the wisdom of such an approach, saying that the result would be a great number of “false positives” from people who had fevers because of illnesses other than Ebola.
Dr. Frieden questioned who would be trained to take the temperatures, and he said he worried about where people with temperatures would be held temporarily in the airport.
“Like any intervention, there are upsides and downsides,” Dr. Frieden said at the time. “There are a lot of downsides. You slow travel, you end up costing people money. Who’s going to get screened? Who’s going to train them? If you have a positive, where are you going to bring them to?”
He added: “The plain truth is we can’t make the risk zero until the outbreak is controlled in West Africa. What we can do is minimize that risk, as is being done now in Dallas.”