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

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.