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

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states 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.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid