You have likely read or heard about the first confirmed case of Ebola in the United States. A man who traveled from Liberia to Dallas via Brussels has been diagnosed with the virus and is in quarantine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the patient “did not have symptoms when leaving West Africa, but developed symptoms approximately four days after arriving in the U.S. on Sept. 20.”
Should you be concerned to take a flight?
No. The CDC assures that there is virtually no risk to air travelers, no matter where you fly. It is important to know that you cannot get Ebola through air, water or food. The virus can only be spread through direct contact with bodily fluids of someone who is already experiencing symptoms. Those most at risk for contracting Ebola are family members and health care workers because they are typically in close contact with the bodily fluids of an infected and symptomatic patient.
How does this affect you and your travel plans?
There is no need for panic. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “The risk of a traveler becoming infected with Ebola virus during a visit to the affected areas and developing the disease after returning is extremely low, even if the visit included travel to areas where primary cases have been reported.”
Whenever traveling abroad, travelers should exercise common sense and care about their personal health and safety. As a precaution, travelers visiting affected areas may wish to consult their physician about any personal risk factors that might affect their susceptibility to infection.
What steps are being taken to prevent spread of Ebola?
Our member airlines are coordinating with the CDC, WHO and government officials in affected areas to help prevent the spread of the virus. CDC has issued guidelines for airlines and crewmembers, which our members follow. . With safety of passengers and crews as the number one priority, airlines continue to maintain programs already in place to clean the interior of each aircraft and carry items onboard for use in case of potential health risks.
According to the CDC director, “One hundred percent of the individuals getting on planes are screened for fever before they get on the plane. If they have a fever, they are pulled out of the line, assessed for Ebola and don’t fly unless Ebola is ruled out.
Proactive screening processes based on recommendations from WHO are underway at points of departure from the Ebola-affected countries in West Africa. Customers who might be ill and contagious may be prohibited from flying to protect other passengers. The decision is made on a case-by-case basis, taking into account well-established airline procedures consistent with Department of Transportation regulations. The CDC also works closely with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to educate CBP officers on symptoms to watch for from international flights.
*Image Courtesy: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Public Health Image Library, Released into the public domain | Wikimedia Commons