Passengers in these countries affected by Ebola are now
being screened for a fever before they board an
international flight and passengers arriving from these
countries to the United States are as well being
screened after they disembark the aircraft. Stephan
Monroe from the CDC said, "It's very unlikely that
(Ebola victims) would be able to spread the disease to
Communicable diseases have spread by different modes of
transportation throughout history. In the Fourteenth
Century, bubonic plague, the Black Death, crossed
Europe in 5 years, the speed of an ox cart.
the Nineteenth Century, Cholera circled the world in
sailing ships. In 1918 and 1919, the Influenza Pandemic
girded the world in six months and killed more people
than died in World War I, spread by steamships and
In 1958, two missionaries infected
with influenza B flew from Hong Kong to
to attend a convention. Within two weeks the great
Hong Kong flu pandemic was worldwide. The
West Nile virus that struck North America in 2001-2
probably originated when an infected carrier emigrated
from the Middle East to the
United States in 2001.
Aviation has the ability to disseminate diseases
worldwide. Today we can transport an incubating Ebola
patient from Africa to anyplace on the planet in 24 hours. We have the
knowledge and skills to control and prevent diseases
from entering new ecosystems and becoming new epidemics.
designated as International must meet mandatory World
Health Organization requirements. These include
quarantine zones, health and customs inspections, and at
least a quarter mile zone around the airport free from
breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
operating to and through international airports are
provided with additional medical support in terms of
planning and prevention. These may include preventive
vaccinations, medications, and protocols for
occupational illness and injuries.
Thursday the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA)
issued a statement regarding the recent Ebola health
concern as it relates to air transportation. “ALPA has
full confidence in the air travel procedures currently
in place related to the Ebola outbreak. Airports in
countries affected by the Ebola virus are screening
airline passengers, and various U.S. government agencies are working to monitor
individuals arriving in the
United States from
affected international airports."
"If a passenger who appears ill arrives at an airport
gate or attempts to board a flight,
airlines have the ability under
law to deny that individual permission to board. Flight
crews have guidance available and access to medical
services to address a medical emergency while a flight
is airborne. Should a medical emergency occur during a
flight, the pilot in command, using available
information and guidance, will determine the appropriate
course of action with the single goal of ensuring the
safety of the passengers and crew on board.”
Back in August the World Health Organization (WHO)
stated the of transmission of Ebola virus disease during
air travel remains low. Dr Isabelle Nuttall, Director of
WHO Global Capacity Alert and Response said, “unlike
infections such as influenza or tuberculosis, Ebola is
not airborne. It can only be transmitted by direct
contact with the body fluids of a person who is sick
with the disease.”
the small chance that someone on the plane is sick with
Ebola, the likelihood of other passengers and crew
having contact with their body fluids is even smaller.
Usually when someone is sick with Ebola, they are so
unwell that they cannot travel.
WHO is therefore advising against travel bans to and
from affected countries. Nuttall
further stated, “because the risk of Ebola
transmission on airplanes is so low, WHO does not
consider air transport hubs at high risk for further
spread of Ebola.”
How are airlines preparing for Ebola?
The FAA is working with the CDC which has developed
guidance for airline crews, cleaning and cargo
personnel, and air medical transport. The CDC’s notices
and guidelines are well publicized. U.S. airlines
have CDC’s guidance and have been sharing the
information with their crews. The FAA will continue to
work collaboratively with the U.S. aviation industry and public
What should a crewmember do if they suspect someone is
infected with Ebola?
The CDC, through a network of Quarantine Stations
located at 20 ports of entry and land-border crossings,
has routine health inspection procedures that consist of
working with airline, cargo ship, and cruise ship
companies to protect passengers and crews from certain
Quarantine inspectors meet arriving aircraft and ships
reporting ill passengers and/or crew (as defined in the
foreign quarantine regulations) and assist them in
getting appropriate medical treatment. If the flight
crew of a commercial aircraft ARRIVING in the U.S.
becomes aware of an ill person on board which may
include a person with Ebola symptoms, the captain is
REQUIRED by law (42 CFR 71.21(b)) to report the illness
to the nearest U.S.
Quarantine Station, who will arrange the appropriate
medical response at the flight’s destination airport.
International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
standards and procedures provide for reports to be made
to air traffic control. Once the FAA receives a report,
it promptly communicates it to the CDC Emergency
Operations Center (EOC).
What are airlines doing to clean airplanes arriving from
countries who have citizens infected with Ebola?
September 5, 2014, the CDC provided airlines with
updated guidance for airline cleaning
personnel, as well as general infection control