Air Travel and Ebola

UPDATE: November 11, 2014

Accra, Ghana

IT’S FUNNY, sitting here in West Africa again and listening to the news from the States. There’s talk now from certain corners advocating the quarantining of all passengers arriving from Africa, or even the outright banning of flights to and from the continent. A lot of people seem to have no concept as to the size of Africa, and which regions are — and are not — affected.

On any given day the number of passengers entering the U.S. from the three impacted countries — Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia — is comparatively tiny, and all of them arrive via third countries in Europe or elsewhere. We keep hearing of proposed “flight restrictions,” but in fact there are no direct flights between the U.S. and any of these three countries. In fact there is only a small handful of flights into the US from any African countries period.

Europe, on the other hand, sees dozens of flights arriving from West Africa daily. It’s worth noting there have been no Ebola outbreaks in Europe, and citizens there do not seem to be as hysterical over the issue as Americans. This is not a virus that a person can catch casually, and any outbreak in a country with a modern medical infrastructure would be contained with relative ease. Yet we’re reacting as though it was the 1700s and smallpox was breaking out, killing tens of thousands across the nation.

The fact that Americans are this irrationally worked up about Ebola leaves me deeply worried about the psyche of this country.

UPDATE: October 16, 2014

TO COMBAT THE SPREAD OF EBOLA, the United States will begin enhanced screening at five major airports of passengers arriving from certain countries overseas.

On the one hand this makes sense. Air travel links every corner of the world. Nowadays virtually any two major cities are connectable through at most two stops. An infectious agent can move from Australia to Florida; from Argentina to China, in a matter of hours. The airplane is an exquisitely effective epidemiological vector, and the airport is perhaps the most critical point for preventing the catastrophic spread of certain diseases.

Passenger health screening is fairly common at airports overseas, by the way. During flu outbreaks and such you’ll often see passengers being screened for fever by infrared sensors or asked to complete questionnaires. For U.S. and European airports to be putting similar measures in place, specifically targeting passengers traveling from West Africa, is not unreasonable.

Nevertheless, the mere threat of an epidemic can cause people to panic and make poor decisions, and some of what we are seeing is overreaction. Calls by some American politicians to outright ban flights to or from Africa, for example, are ridiculous. Americans are squeamish enough as it is when it comes global travel; we need to understand the details and context of what’s going on.

Pretty much all scheduled air service to the Ebola-stricken countries already has been curtailed. So far as I know, no major airlines are flying into Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone at the moment. And no U.S. carriers fly to any of these countries to begin with, even in normal times. This makes it very logistically challenging for any Ebola-infected person to reach another region or continent. So far fewer than ten such people, including the man who died in Texas last week, have traveled beyond West Africa. It is possible that additional victims will somehow make their way onto what limited flights still exist in these areas, and carry the disease onward to other parts of the world, but remember that the Ebola virus is transmissible only through direct contact with bodily fluids. This is not something that airline passengers or anybody else can catch as passers-by. And the Texas victim, along with most of the others, were not people who caught the virus casually. They were aid workers, doctors, and other people working very close to already-infected patients. It’s fair to say that none of them contracted Ebola unexpectedly.

Even within West Africa the danger is being somewhat overhyped. I am in West Africa as I type this. Africa is a large continent and West Africa is a large part of that continent; the Ebola-stricken areas are comparatively small and have largely been cut off from air and road traffic. The amount of people who die here in Ghana every day from traffic accidents, water-borne illnesses and other completely preventable causes, far exceeds the number who’ve caught Ebola. Indeed, that number is exactly zero.

The goal, of course, is keeping that number at zero. We shouldn’t fault anybody for being cautious and proactive in efforts to contain something as horrible as Ebola. Passengers at Accra airport are being screened individually beneath banners and placards warning of Ebola’s dangers. Arrival of the virus would be disastrous for the nation’s people, its economy and reputation.

However, this is not something that a person sitting in Pittsburgh or Spokane ought to be losing sleep over. Neither should Americans be canceling their travel plans to places like Ghana or other unaffected countries nearby.

It is fascinating, and frankly a little scary, to see just how efficiently global air travel is able to spread pathogens from continent to continent. Throw in the long-term effects of climate change, and the term “tropical disease” may eventually lose its meaning. On the other hand, it’s fear and hysteria, not illness, that is more easily contagious. The balance here is a tricky one. We all want to be safe. Airlines, passengers and government authorities need to be cautious. But while things like enhanced airport screening are a useful idea, we can’t be sending hazmat teams onto planes every time a passenger sneezes. On October 13th in Boston, passengers were kept quarantined for three hours aboard an arriving Emirates flight because five people were exhibiting “flu-like symptoms.” None of the five had been traveling anywhere close to an Ebola-infected country. That’s not being reasonable. How many flights, I wonder, will be needlessly diverted in the coming days out of similar hysteria? According to a World Bank estimate, 90 percent of costs of an outbreak like this come not from the illness itself, but from “irrational and disorganized efforts of the public to avoid infection.”

 

 

From a Q&A with the website MainStreet.com

Q: As a pilot, how do you deal with sick passengers? How do you decide when you need to treat something as an emergency?

Inflight medical issues are very common. Every airline has its own protocols and guidelines on how to handle them. Generally each major airline has a hospital or medical facility with which it partners, and crews can patch in with that location via phone or radio when somebody becomes ill. (Some aircraft are equipped so that the cabin crew can speak directly to these locations; on other planes the pilots must relay the information back and forth via radio or datalink.) These specialists on the ground, as well as doctors or other medical professionals who happen to be on board, assist the crew in determining whether an emergency diversion is the best course of action. Most times it’s not.

Q: Do you have any personal experience with passengers becoming seriously ill on your flights?

Depends what you mean by “seriously,” but I’ve had passengers become sick on my flights many times. Once or twice those situations led to diversions or returns to the departure airport, where the passenger was taken to a hospital. I’ve never had a person die on one of my flights, but inflight fatalities aren’t terribly uncommon. All this stands to reason when you’ve got more than two million people traveling by air every single day.

Q: One of the things being talked about right now is the concern of getting sick from fellow passengers. For example people often worry about “sharing the same air” with other passengers.

There is a segment in my book about this, and in the questions-and-answers section of this website too. The air on planes is very dry, which can make it easier to contract an airborne virus, but it’s also much, much cleaner than people think it is. Usually when people become ill from flying, it’s from something they touch, not something they breathe. And you’re not going to catch Ebola from an air vent. (I highly recommend Richard Preston’s 1994 book, The Hot Zone, for a full and terrifying look at the realities of Ebola. One known strain of the disease is believed to be transmissible through the air, but that strain is deadly only to monkeys, not people.)

In 2009, during a flu outbreak, Vice President Joe Biden told viewers of NBC’s “Today” show to avoid confined places, including subways and airplanes. “When one person sneezes,” he said. “It goes all the way through the aircraft.” This ticked some people off, including me. That same afternoon the White House Press Secretary was at the podium issuing a retraction on Biden’s behalf.

Are there any best practices that passengers can follow to minimize risks? What do you, as a frequent traveler and airline worker, do to minimize risks?

On the plane, a little hand sanitizer is probably a better safeguard than the masks I occasionally see people wearing. But the best thing a person can do is be accurately informed — and not only by headlines in the mainstream media. Airlines periodically update their crew members with the latest news and threats when it comes to any health concerns. It’s important for airlines and their employees to understand what they are — and are not — dealing with.

Staying healthy overseas is mostly common sense. I don’t take any particularly overt precautions beyond guarding against mosquitoes when I travel in malaria-endemic areas. And avoiding hotel buffets — the number one place where travelers get sick!

 

Related stories:

IMAGES FROM LIBERIA

LETTER FROM GHANA

 

For additional info on Ebola and travel, see Airsafe.com

 

Africa graphic by the author.

Back to the Ask the Pilot Home Page Visit the Blog Archive Back to Top!

Leave a Comment

Maximum 1500 characters. Watch your spelling and grammar. Poorly written posts will be deleted!

41 Responses to “Air Travel and Ebola”
You are viewing newest comments first. Click to reverse order
  1. Ezequiel says:

    I’d like to thank you for thhe efforts you’ve put in penning this website.
    I’m hoping to view the same high-grade content by you in the future aas
    well. In fact, your creative writing abilities has motivated me to get my own sitee now 😉

  2. john A says:

    I think that the only way to prevent Ebola, terrorism, smuggling of money, drugs, snakes or what have you…..is to lock everybody in the world inside their homes and prevent travel anywhere, anytime for any reason.
    There is just no excuse for people wandering around whenever or where ever they want.
    This action would prevent many deaths among the world population and would also cut down on use of oil, gas, water and food and many other materials. (and it would also be very good for the planet.)
    The small fact that most of the worlds population would die from lack of food and clean water is a small price to pay for preventing the spread of virulent diseases.

  3. rklewis2 says:

    Flying frequently even throughout a major airport with incoming from the ebola infected areas is stressful. Rationalizing using a restroom walking on a tissue or even touching anything thrown into a waste basket. Sadly some of us have healthcare experiences & or deal with other health issues enough to recognize how easily one can contract other pathogens during air travel. The lack of CDC & WHO standards meeting eye too eye also is troubling. It always seems planes are somewhat lacking in optimal cleanliness so adding together the unknowns and assumptions;certainly too error with a situation that could go terribly wrong seems lacking in compassion entirely; by our country too self govern its people. Therefore most certainly those helping with the crises could-should be supported without compromising the general public either. To NOT DO BOTH shows lack of leadership by our Government & more of the serious extreme lack of common sense most people are willing to live in until it costs them a great deal. Hindsight is always 20-20 but I fear the cost the USA may experience will grieve generations too come. I pray I am misinformed. Time will surely tell us.

  4. Mark R. says:

    “This is not a virus that a person can catch casually, yet we are reacting as though smallpox were breaking out.”

    It is true that Ebola is not quite as contagious as Smallpox, but Smallpox also has an effective vaccine while Ebola does not.

    Both are level four hazards requiring surreal levels of protection to prevent infection.

    While it’s a concern that it could become epidemic in the USA perhaps an even bigger danger is if it gets to Lagos, Cairo, Nairobi, Jakarta, Dacca, etc. What happens if nuclear armed Pakistan has to deal with Ebola on top of all of their other crises?

    Happy news: Nigeria is officially Ebola-free according to WHO. It’s likely they will be tested again, but for now they’ve squashed their outbreak.

    The epidemic / pandemic is a global test of our civilization.

  5. Speed says:

    From Saturday’s Wall Street Journal …

    Heightened surveillance of passports, visas and points of origin from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, or limits on nonessential travel, could perhaps offer protection at the margin. But enforcing a stricter cordon could also set off a chain reaction with other nations imposing them as well. Fragile regional governments, economies and cross-border trade could be undermined; relief materiel and personnel would be more expensive to transport via charter; and regional fear and panic could spike even more.

    The best among bad policy options are those that create the fewest new vectors for Ebola to spread. The illusion of sealing off the U.S. border or restricting North American and global integration is a false hope.

    A travel ban is also unlikely to mitigate the potential domestic hot zone, which is now much broader than the still-minor Dallas outbreak. The main reason is that public institutions with a residual reputation for competence continue to undermine their credibility. From the World Health Organization to the CDC down to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, officials underestimated the early threats and then were overconfident in their powers against an unforgiving disease.

    http://online.wsj.com/articles/ebola-political-contagion-1413586507

  6. Jonny C says:

    Chris,

    What “experts” are you talking about? Certainly not the CDC, have you seen some of the bumbling comments of CDC director Frieden? And what about the fact when nurse Vincent called the CDC asking if she could travel they said yes? So…what experts are you talking about, I really want to know. The only people I trust right now are the ones who admit that we don’t know the potential extent of this disease and we must be extra cautious.

    As for the hospital in Dallas, I agree they made a big mistake by letting Mr. Duncan go after his first visit given his admission to having just come from Liberia. However what if after that first visit they held him and it turned out he did not have ebola. What would have happened then, hmmmm? You know the Presby hospital would most certainly been labeled as racist and would be subject to the likes of Jackson and Sharpton. Even in this set of threads Julia and Patrick have thrown out the race card on people reacting with alarm about ebola. It was a no win for them.

    Chris I really hope to hear back from you here about who you think are these experts and as an added bonus could you also tell me who these non experts are so I can avoid them?

    Jonny C

    • Speed says:

      Chris asked, “What “experts” are you talking about?”

      Pierre Trbovic, an anthropologist from Belgium working with Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), arrived in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, in late August 2014 to help with MSF’s response to the Ebola epidemic. MSF has mobilized all available resources to combat the spread of the disease and opened a host of case management centers in affected countries. But given the mounting caseload and the failure of the international community to launch the sort of massive, coordinated response that’s needed to prevent more misery, teams have been forced into the brutal position of having to turn away patients who clearly need care.
      Trbovic saw firsthand how overwhelmed health staff were as sick people were queuing in the street, and he found himself taking on the heart-wrenching job of turning people away.

      http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/news-stories/voice-field/ebola-impossible-choices-liberia

      Click on the link for information from the experts at MSF.

  7. Josh says:

    Unfortunately, we again fall victim to a sensational and overzealous media. While Ebola obviously merits concern and attention, the number of Americans who die of vaccine-preventable diseases in this country exceeds that of those who will EVER get infected in this country by a factor of several thousands.
    Ebola has been around for decades in Africa and developing nations with exceedingly limited resources there have managed to keep it largely in check during that time. While admittedly novel to us here, the chance of an Ebola pandemic developing in the US is virtually nil.

  8. Vinny Noggin says:

    As far as we know, everyone infected with Ebola who has arrived to the Homeland traveled via aircraft. That’s concerning (and urges an immediate ban on air travel by small irritating children both into and especially within the Homeland during the Ebola Times at least, for they are our future…not doing so would be the height of parental irresponsibility).

    There are deeper concerns. Many ocean-going ships, freighters and cruise ships, are registered in Liberia. These ships could bring Ebola to us? Recall the Carnival cruise ship debacle in which passengers and crew were walking ankle deep in human feces for several days! It won’t be pretty when such a ship has to be scuttled mid-Caribbean with a loss of what, 5000 souls or, worse, 500,000 iheadphones? But it may be necessary to save the Homeland.

    Let’s not forget Panama. As with Liberia, many ships are registered in Panama, and Ebola could get into to Panama it being a tropical place and all.

    Airline pilots, airlines, etc., need to be bold and reach out to the seas to save us…this not the time to be sanguine.

  9. Chris says:

    I just wish people would value the word of experts more than the “opinions” of people who consider their non-expertise a badge of honour.

    Having said that, what a thouroughly unprofessional job from the people at the Dallas hospital the poor man died, to dismiss him the first time he showed up with severe symptoms!

  10. Speed says:

    It’s not just Peggy Noonan.

    Former White House press secretary Jay Carney suggested Thursday that the White House take “substantive actions” in fighting Ebola, including putting in place flight restrictions.

    “I think substantive actions need to be taken, and they may involve flight restrictions, they may involve moving all patients to specific hospitals in the country that can handle Ebola, and I think those would be wise decisions to make,” Carney said on CNN.

    He continued, “I’m not an expert, but I think that would demonstrate a level of seriousness in response to this that is merited at this point.”

    http://www.politico.com/story/2014/10/jay-carney-ebola-white-house-response-111940.html

    It’s true. He’s not an expert.

  11. UncleStu says:

    No personal insult intended, but you should widen your pool of resources.

    If I ever quote Ms. Noonan (and certain others) as an authority on anything, my family has my written permission to have me committed, because I have obviously lost my mind.

    • Speed says:

      Since I made the first reference to and quoted Ms. Noonan, I’ll assume (possibly a false assumption) that your comment was directed to me.

      I did not quote her as an authority. I quoted her as an example of what some (and possibly many) people are thinking and saying. Ms. Noonan correctly lists some things that could (could!) go wrong with the policy now in effect. The US government has been known to make mistakes and people have been known to screw up.

  12. Speed says:

    An example of contact tracking, monitoring and isolation.

    The second Texas health-care worker to be diagnosed with Ebola flew domestically the night before she reported symptoms, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday. The CDC and Frontier Airlines put out the following statement announcing plans to notify passengers on that flight. Here is the joint statement as released by the CDC:
    http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2014/10/15/ebola-concerns-statement-from-cdc-and-frontier-airlines-on-flight-1143/

  13. Calabogie says:

    Your comment on the size of the African continent is on point and too many people just don’t understand the size of it. My wife and I lived and worked in Chad for 1.5 years and that country alone is about 3 times the size of California. The “largeness” of Africa is not something that is easily understood by even those who live on that continent.

    FWIW, there are many more worrisome diseases in Africa. Ebola was very low on our list. Menigitis can kill in days, sometimes hours and one of the people I worked with died from that while we lived there. Other diseases and viruses were much more common than Ebola and more easily transmitted from one person to another. For the record however, our time in Chad was one of the most fulfilling and interesting times of our lives and we would do it again if we hadn’t gone and got old all of a sudden. 😉

  14. Msconduct says:

    I’ve never had a person die on one of my flights, but inflight fatalities aren’t terribly uncommon.

    Famously, Singapore Airlines have a corpse cupboard on their Airbus A340-500 fleet. I’ve often wondered if they’d let me rent it if they’re not using it. It’d save a bunch on my business class fare.

  15. Speed says:

    From today’s Wall Street Journal …

    Congo has years of experience fighting this disease: It has world-class Ebola experts who have responded to countless outbreaks, as well as multiple, national-level laboratories that are devoted to the diagnosis of viruses. When people in Congo began falling ill this summer, local labs within a week were able to determine both that Ebola was the cause and that the virus was distinct from the West African epidemic. The Congolese response included immediate site visits and the deployment of a mobile lab for on-site diagnostics, reducing response time, and the effective isolation of Ebola cases.
    http://online.wsj.com/articles/nathan-wolfe-no-more-ebola-whac-a-mole-1413241442

  16. JuliaZ says:

    Except the vast majority of people even in the worst-affected countries are not infected. This would be like quarantining everyone in the state of California (or Texas) if one person there had the flu. In fact, doing what you propose is MORE ridiculous than locking down states with the flu… Influenza kills 20-40,000 Americans every year. Despite Ebola being around as a serious disease for decades, exactly one American has died from it. One. Doesn’t it seem a bit ridiculous to inconvenience thousands of people, at incredible cost? As Patrick has already pointed out, there is very little commercial air service to the affected regions as it is. The panic over this very human tragedy is ridiculous, and there’s a streak of racism, too. If this was a disease impacting rich white people in Europe, I doubt the calls for quarantine would be as strident.

    • Eric says:

      You know JuliaZ, Louis Farrakhan claimed that white men created ebola just to kill off blacks (Google it to read about it); that fits right in with your racism claim…so was that a smart comment by Farrakhan? Forgive me if I stick to my dumb comments.

      As to the flu; your body can fight it off. I don’t know the numbers – would you say hundreds of thousands of people get the flu every year? Millions? A small percentage of them die because their bodies/immune systems are weak for whatever reason. The rest get better.

      That doesn’t happen with ebola; your body can’t fight it off by itself, and if you flippantly compare ebola to influenza, you haven’t thought this through very well.

      I’ll give you a choice; infect your child with influenza, or ebola…which one? Remember now, the flu kills tens of thousands each year, and ebola’s only killed ONE person here, right JuliaZ? I think you’ll act like ebola’s no big deal until you come face to face with it and somebody you know or love is affected by it. Every person that contracts it here on US soil will be because the CDC and the administration sat by and did nothing meaningful to stop it from getting here.

      Sorry for the long post; I’m just very surprised at what is considered a smart post here.

      P.S: Patrick; I went through DFW last week (coincidentally), and your book is sitting right on the counter next to the register at the bookstore I went in to. I asked the lady if they carried it, and she just stood there and pointed straight down below my nose and the book directly in front of me. duh! I will have to start traveling more extensively, and I’ll pick up your book to kill some time the next airport I visit.

      • Patrick says:

        I agree with JuliaZ that some people’s overblown worries of the disease are tinged with a subtle sort of racism and an irrational fear of things “African.” As to your point about flu-v-Ebola, yes, all of that is true. But, it doesn’t change the fact that the average American air traveler’s chance of contracting Ebola is next to nothing. And I don’t think her comparison was “flippant” at all. She’s not talking about the disease; she’s talking about the likelihood of getting it.

        • Jonny C says:

          Julia and, well, Patrick too, what is your point? Are you both saying that anyone who is a bit concerned about Ebola and its spread from some parts of Africa to America is racist? Please, this is text book, boiler plate, shut down debate, accusing anyone with an alternative point of view as a racist, lets throw in biggot and homophobe while you are at it. This pisses me off and it tells me that neither of you are really interested in a real exchange of ideas. Patrick I have followed you since your first book, all the many years ago and have lived vicariously through you as a pilot and really appreciate your voice of reason to the panoply of aviation complexities but please leave the politics of race to other well qualified individuals such as…well…Al Sharpton, and Jessy Jackson.

          Jonny C

    • Mark Richards says:

      “Influenza kills 20-40,000 Americans every year”

      Although the premise of your comments are correct, this statement is in error. You likely got it from the US CDC. Reading between the lines, understanding the complex collusion between the CDC and the pharmaceutical corporations they promote, and the fact that US public health policy is based almost entirely upon medication (it used to be education and practice), would enlighten and perhaps frighten.

      The CDC admits it does not know how many die from influenza and that the numbers they eventually promulgate – to increase fear and therefore vaccine “compliance” – are not well grounded.

      It might be far better to proportionally associate automobile deaths with the risks of getting ANY of these diseases. There, you will find a stark contrast.

  17. Mark R. says:

    How saving West African forests might have prevented the Ebola epidemic

    http://www.theguardian.com/vital-signs/2014/oct/03/ebola-epidemic-bats-deforestation-west-africa-guinea-sierra-leone-liberia

    and the Big Picture

    Uncharted territory from a system in overshoot

    http://prosperouswaydown.com/uncharted-territory-overshoot/

    • Patrick says:

      Indeed. In “The Hot Zone,” Richard Preston makes the very compelling point that viruses like Ebola and HIV are nature fighting back against destructive human encroachment.

  18. Jonny C says:

    Patrick,

    How many real water bourn evacuation emergencies have you been in? I have been a seafarer since 1984 and not once have I even come close to having to abandon ship. And yet in your industry as in mine we go to great pains, training and expense to be prepared. Not based on probability, but the catastrophe that would ensue if not prepared for the “unlikely event” (a little flight attendant lingo).

    I would much prefer a CDC that errors on the side of caution, just like how I prefer the people up front flying my plane. By the way have you ever taken the canopy walk?

    Jonny C

    • Patrick says:

      The canopy walk in Ghana, up north of Cape Coast, yes. it’s a decent day trip, sure — though nothing like the tropical forest experiences I’ve had in Borneo or the Amazon. But it’s also kind of depressing, because so much of the forests in Ghana are obliterated. That’s just one tiny area they’ve kept intact.

  19. Speed says:

    A few bits from around the web …

    The government announced Wednesday that it was stepping up protective measures at five airports, where authorities will screen travelers from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea with targeted questions and fever checks.
    [ … ]
    “The SARS outbreak cost the world more than $40 billion, but it wasn’t to control the outbreak,” Frieden said Wednesday. “Those were costs from unnecessary and ineffective travel restrictions and trade changes that could have been avoided.”

    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/10/how-the-cdc-is-carefully-controlling-how-scared-you-are-about-ebola/381301/

    ATLANTA — Federal health officials will require temperature checks for the first time at five major American airports for people arriving from the three West African countries hardest hit by the deadly Ebola virus. However, health experts said the measures were more likely to calm a worried public than to prevent many people with Ebola from entering the country.

    Still, they constitute the first large-scale attempt to improve security at American ports of entry since the virus arrived on American soil last month.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/09/us/newly-vigilant-us-is-to-screen-fliers-for-ebola.html?ref=us&_r=0

    More at Politico …
    http://www.politico.com/story/2014/10/ebola-us-airport-screening-111699.html

    Earlier this week, Hans Rosling was interviewed by the BBC and said (from memory) that the number of recorded Ebola cases was doubling about every three weeks — a geometric growth — making it especially important to stop its spread early.

  20. Speed says:

    Peggy Noonan questions the effectiveness of screening …

    Instead the government chooses to let the flow of individuals from infected countries continue. They will be screened at five U.S. airports, where their temperatures will be taken and they will be asked if they have been around anyone with Ebola.

    A lot of them, knowingly or unknowingly, have been around Ebola. People who are sick do not in the early stages have elevated temperatures. People who are desperate to leave a plague state will, understandably if wrongly, lie on questionnaires.

    U.S. health-care workers at airports will not early on be organized, and will not always show good judgment. TSA workers sometimes let through guns and knives. These workers will be looking for microbes, which, as they say, are harder to see. A baby teething can run a fever; so will a baby with the virus. A nurse or doctor with long experience can tell the difference. Will the airport workers?

    http://online.wsj.com/articles/is-worthy-fights-worthy-1412891347

    • Patrick says:

      “The flow of individuals?” You mean the one person thus far?

      I also don’t like her use of the term “plague state.” I mean if this was smallpox or something I’d understand.

      I cannot imagine Ebola has much potential to spread among the populations of western countries. Neither are comparisons to HIV valid. That’s a disease that remains latent in the body, potentially undetected, for many years. THAT is why it spreads. Ebola, at least in the West, would be far more easily contained and quickly eliminated. If it were to spread at all.

    • Miguelin says:

      The screening of passengers by checking their temperatures is not primarily to catch the infected. It is to assuage the fears of a panicked America.

    • James Wattengel says:

      I don’t recall ever encountering anything intelligent coming from Peggy Noonan

  21. Eric says:

    Okay, so don’t outright ban flights, but if any people coming in to the US have been to any country that is having an Ebola outbreak, quarantine them for 21 days first. If they don’t exhibit symptoms, let them travel on to the US.

    Hell yes it’s extreme. Yes it’s an inconvenience for those people. But, unlike our CDC director, I don’t care about hurting people’s feelings. Here is a quote directly from his statement:

    “Casting too wide a net, such as invoking travel bans, would only provide an illusion of security and would lead to prejudice and stigma around those in West Africa.”

    …so instead of trying to keep Ebola contained to the outbreak area, he’s more worried about hurting people’s feelings and stigmatizing them…instead of protecting the rest of the population.

    He uses a wildfire example, but he’s too dense to see that you don’t go in, take a flame from that fire, then travel to some other location and use it to start another wildfire there. You CONTAIN the wildfire to that area and do not allow it to spread out. That is what is occurring here and this man/administration in the CDC is criminally incompetent for not initiating travel bans/quarantine orders. Ditto for the administration that didn’t immediately remove him from his position after his stance on this became apparent.

    IMHO, of course.

    • Sean S. says:

      This is silliness and proposes a world where somehow you can effectively cut off a whole swath of a continent and not have serious economic and political repercussions, inducing un-necessary panic and an even more rapid destabilization of already strained governments. The last thing we need is a collapse of what little government there is in these countries and further roll backs of health care infrastructure.

      Your continued insistence on spouting off un-grounded “facts” about Ebola (Ebola does not, in fact, kill everyone who gets it, but the fatality rate is high, in the 50% range across multiple outbreaks, though one outbreak has been as high as 90%). It also ignores the method of transmission (direct bodily contact with fluids). Are you bathing in your neighbors sewage water? If not, then you are not getting Ebola. Ebola after all is a disease of a lack of infrastructure for clean water and proper sewage treatment, effectively a disease of poverty. Posts like this are the exact reason why we have people with actual degrees and training running these agencies, not lay people.

  22. Dave says:

    More to my post above. Some interesting video. ‘Here’s What Happens If You’re On A Plane And You Joke You Have Ebola’ , help me to understand how carefully the people on this flight are being tracked after they reconnected to Punta Cana and stayed for a few days…… this appears to be a false alarm. However, read the details that are coming from USA and Spain and see how this is far from simple.

    http://flightclub.jalopnik.com/heres-what-happens-if-youre-on-a-plane-and-they-think-y-1644494804/+chris-mills

    This is serious stuff in itself, and unfortunately just the tip of the iceberg for the connected world we are in. We need aviation industries help.

  23. Dave says:

    Your post offers some useful information, however it also includes some statements that I believe to harm the understanding and focus that people need to have about Ebola and communicable diseases in general. Net net, your post is an excellent example of why an expert in aviation should stick to commenting about aviation and differ to medical experts any points about topics in communicable diseases.

    An example of my concern about your post:

    Your statement : ‘but remember that the Ebola virus is transmissible only through direct contact with bodily fluids.’

    vs. this post by the World Health Organization, which basically says ‘we do not know what would happen’ if

    http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/ebola/06-october-2014/en/

    ‘This could happen when virus-laden heavy droplets are directly propelled, by coughing or sneezing (which does not mean airborne transmission) onto the mucus membranes or skin with cuts or abrasions of another person.

    WHO is not aware of any studies that actually document this mode of transmission. On the contrary, good quality studies from previous Ebola outbreaks show that all cases were infected by direct close contact with symptomatic patients.’

    Who’s statement should I value more?

    Let me propose a scenario to you:

    Person with Ebola on board, say, an Airbus A380, with 600 passengers on board, starts coughing 15 minutes into the flight of 12 hours. For the next 11:45 the pilot optimizes fuel economy by maximizing cabin air recirculation and the Ebola passenger continues to sneeze and cough. I think you have been flying ‘up front’ for too long to understand the soup that exists on board.

    The plane lands, 599 passengers head off to their connections around the world. The one passenger is stopped and diagnosed as having Ebola.
    What happens next? NO one knows. That is the mathematical problem that we do not want to experience.

    So, again, I think your contribution as to how the aviation industry could help to minimize the possibilities of the spread of Ebola would be welcomed and encouraged. But not your opinions on healthcare and communicable diseases.

    • David Kazmierski says:

      What haughty nonsense, Dave. Saliva/sputum is a body fluid, and the WHO’s scenario you mention is a direct-contact scenario…basically, someone coughing/sneezing/spitting “directly” into an open wound on you. Your detour about “maximized cabin air recirculation” and 12 hours of coughing/sneezing makes no sense for several reasons, chief of which is that ebola is not an airborne pathogen.

      • Michael Greenberg says:

        The Dallas nurse who contracted Ebola after treating the patient who died was wearing all of the prescribed protective gear. Officials says she contracted the disease because when she removed her protective clothing, she inadvertently touched her cheek.

        Touched.her.cheek.

        • Miguelin says:

          The nurse who touched her cheek was the Spanish nurse. So far no one has said how the Dallas nurse broke protocol or got infected.

        • David Kazmierski says:

          Oh, do try to unbunch your panties, ma’am. She touched her cheek, yes. It’s not difficult to see how a virus could get from your cheek to your mouth/eyes/ears/nose. Hint: more touching of the face. This is how other infections spread. The key detail here is that she was in a closed room with an ebola patient, touching him directly, as well as touching his fluids and things that likely had his fluids on them. Remove the need to touch an ebola patient and/or his fluids and fluid-contaminated items, and, well, you remove all chance, realistically speaking, of getting ebola.