It currently takes several days for the Centers for Disease Control to get access to airline manifests because the government can't get electronic access to airlines' passenger manifests. The CDC has been asking for this for several years but privacy concerns and computer incompatibility have stymied the effort. Now, the Institutes of Medicine, an independent group chartered by Congress to advice on health mattes, has come out with a report backing CDC's request. AP reports that the report says lack of electronic access to information is "a significant gap in the nation’s quarantine system, designed to intercept disease threats at U.S. borders."
“This is a very big issue,” said Dr. Martin Cetron, director of CDC’s quarantine division. “What we’re really asking for is 21st century information management.”
Airline reservation databases don’t record all the information needed to track someone down after a flight, and there are so many daily passengers that it’s difficult for airlines to keep even electronic records long enough for CDC to use them when a disease question arises, he said.
The Air Transport Association of America, which represents major airlines, hadn’t seen the report Thursday and a spokesman said the issue is under review.