News / Africa

Health Officials Say Ebola Threat to Air Travel Low

FILE - A passenger aircraft is silhouetted against the rising moon in New Delhi, May 7, 2009.
FILE - A passenger aircraft is silhouetted against the rising moon in New Delhi, May 7, 2009.
VOA News

The death of an Ebola-infected airline passenger in Nigeria has tipped off fears that the illness could spread across the airways to Europe, Asia and the Americas.

At least one U.S. lawmaker proposed to ban travelers from Ebola-impacted countries from entering the United States. So far, the proposal has seen little traction among U.S. agencies, though federal health officials on Thursday advised Americans to avoid nonessential travel to the West African countries Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia because of the outbreak.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Level 3” warning talks of “high risk” to travelers and is issued mostly in dire events such as the outbreak of the  SARS disease.

Still, international travel organizations and health officials are downplaying the threat of a global pandemic spreading through air travel, saying transmission of the virus does not happen through the air. They say because of the nature of the virus and its method of spreading, there’s little reason to panic.

CDC map of east Africa, areas with confirmed and probable cases of EbolaCDC map of east Africa, areas with confirmed and probable cases of Ebola
x
CDC map of east Africa, areas with confirmed and probable cases of Ebola
CDC map of east Africa, areas with confirmed and probable cases of Ebola

Ebola is a hard virus to catch, in spite of the alarming numbers coming out of West Africa. It is transmitted either by direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person or by indirect contact – such as touching soiled bed sheets, clothing or contaminated surfaces. 

“The primary concern would be transmission through body fluids – sneezing, sputum, blood,” said Russell B. Rayman, former executive director of the Aerospace Medical Association (ASMA).

Any body fluid could transmit the virus, "so that is definitely a concern," he said. "And it’s particularly a concern when you are talking in terms of proximity, that is, a person who has this illness being close to somebody who does not have the illness. That’s true of any most infectious diseases.”

Ebola, labs worldwide, diagnostic and outbreak responseEbola, labs worldwide, diagnostic and outbreak response
x
Ebola, labs worldwide, diagnostic and outbreak response
Ebola, labs worldwide, diagnostic and outbreak response

So far, ASMA hasn’t taken any official position on Ebola, Rayman said.

He cautioned against overreacting. 

“There is always the possibility of going too a little too far one way or another, because there are other factors involved besides the facts themselves,” he said. “There may be political factors involved. There could be economic factors. At this stage of the game, I would just tend to urge all agencies and individuals to approach this thing with a clear mind and to make decisions based on facts, good common sense and good clinical judgment.”

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the organization that sets guidelines for the airline industry, also is taking a cautious approach.

“We are concerned in the sense that it’s an important issue that needs to be dealt with,” said Claude Thibeault, the association's medical adviser, “but we are not concerned that this is going to spread like wildfire across the planet right now.” 

IATA’s Medical Advisory Group, which draws on experts from all over the globe, has drafted guidelines to help airline crews in cases where a passenger may be infected with Ebola or any other communicable disease. These guidelines include lists of symptoms to look for, basic procedures on caring for ill passengers and specific steps for sanitizing surfaces and handling waste.

Transport officials say they work closely with the World Health Organization (WHO), which is not recommending any travel, border or trade restrictions at this time. But that hasn’t curbed fear or prevented West African states from taking extra precautions of their own.  

The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCA)  this week banned flights by Asky, the Togo-based airline that flew the Liberian passenger infected with Ebola into Lagos, where he later died.  

And WHO said on Thursday that a medical sample taken from the Liberian man had not yet been sent for testing at its facilities in Senegal because courier companies have refused to transport it.  

Derek Gatherer of Britain's Lancaster University, an expert in viruses who has been tracking the West Africa outbreak, told Reuters there is greater risk of transmission by land than through air travel.

"It's one of the reasons why we get this churn of infections," he said of cross-border transmissions.

Still, in most of the identified cases, victims are close to death likely too ill to travel, said Bruce Hirsch, an infectious diseases expert at North Shore University Hospital in New York.

"It is possible, of course, for a person to think he might just be coming down with the flu, and to get onto transport and then develop more critical illness,” he told Reuters. “ That's one of the things we are concerned about.”

But, Hirsch said: "The risk [of Ebola spreading to Europe or the United States] is not zero, but it is very small."

Reuters information contributed to this report.

You May Like

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More