CDC to airlines about Ebola: Treat all body fluids as though they are infectious

CDC to airlines about Ebola: Treat all body fluids as though they are infectious
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has increased its warnings on Ebola to airlines, detailing how to handle passengers who get sick on board the aircraft. The guidance includes cleaning and reporting procedures.

In the new guidance, the CDC warns flight crew, “Treat all body fluids as though they are infectious,” on top of routine infection control measures, the agency wrote.

Airlines are permitted “to deny boarding to air travelers with serious contagious diseases that could spread during flight, including travelers with possible Ebola symptoms.” If a passenger gets sick on board, cabin crew should follow routine infection control precautions. If it is confirmed that the traveler has “infectious Ebola” on the flight, “CDC will conduct an investigation to assess risk and inform passengers and crew of possible exposure.”

The CDC is attempting to get ahead of the deadly disease, which causes hemorrhagic fever in its victims, before it can arrive in the United States via an infected airline passenger.

The fear of the outbreak spreading beyond the current West African locations (Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal) ‒ or even the continent ‒ intensified in July, when a Liberian man, sick with Ebola, was able to board an international flight to Nigeria. None of the passengers on that aircraft appeared to have contracted the disease in the weeks after the incident.

The guidance tells flight crews to assess the risk of Ebola by getting more information. “Ask sick travelers whether they were in a country with an Ebola outbreak. Look for or ask about Ebola symptoms: fever (gives a history of feeling feverish or having chills), severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea (several trips to the lavatory), stomach pain, or unexplained bleeding or bruising.”

Ebola spreads by direct contact with infected bodily fluids, so the CDC noted that the risk to passengers and crew aboard an aircraft is low. “Ebola does NOT spread through the air like flu,” the agency stressed.

Even still, the guidance calls for the sick passenger to be separated from others as much as possible. When dealing with the passenger, flight attendants and other crew members should wear surgical masks, face shields or goggles and protective aprons or gowns. It also says that sick passengers should be given surgical masks if they are coughing or sneezing, as long as they can tolerate wearing one. If they cannot, flight crews should “provide tissues and ask the person to cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.”

Dr. Jorge Rodriquez, a board certified internal medicine professional, told The Blaze’s Mike Opelka during a Saturday radio interview that more precautions are needed to combat Ebola transmission on commuter flights. He believes every traveler entering the country should be tested.

Airline captains are legally required to report any individuals suspected of carrying the Ebola virus to the CDC before landing in the United States.

“People who have been exposed to Ebola virus disease should not travel on commercial airplanes until there is a period of monitoring for symptoms of illness lasting 21 days after exposure. Sick travelers should delay travel until cleared to travel by a doctor or public health authority,” the agency said in previous guidelines to airlines about the infectious disease.

The CDC will be issuing a worst-case-scenario report on the West African Ebola outbreak this week. Early estimates predict the disease could spread to over half a million people by January if no additional action is taken to contain it.