News / Health

WHO: Ebola Unlikely to Spread on Airplanes

A health worker takes a passenger's temperature with an infrared digital laser thermometer at the Felix Houphouet Boigny international airport in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Aug. 13, 2014.
A health worker takes a passenger's temperature with an infrared digital laser thermometer at the Felix Houphouet Boigny international airport in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Aug. 13, 2014.
Lisa Schlein

The World Health Organization says it does not recommend a ban on air travel to and from Ebola affected countries in West Africa. The U.N. health agency says the risk of spread of the deadly disease in an airplane is extremely low.

Korean Air announced Thursday it would suspend air travel to Kenya as of August 20 as a measure to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus. The first airline to take similar action was the Dubai carrier Emirates, which suspended air travel to Guinea on August 2.

The World Health Organization does not endorse a ban on travel or trade. It says air travel even from Ebola affected countries poses an extremely low risk of transmission of the disease.

WHO Director of Alert and Response, Isabelle Nuttal, said Ebola was not airborne like Influenza or tuberculosis.  She said the Ebola infection was passed on only through direct contact with a sick person's body fluid, such as blood, vomit, sweat or diarrhea.

"On the small chance that someone is sick on a plane, the likelihood of other passengers and crew contact with their body fluids is even smaller," she said. "A person infected with Ebola…this person can transmit the disease to another one only if he or she has the symptom of a disease - fever, vomiting, diarrhea.  A person that has no sign of the disease is not contagious, is not transmitting the disease to others."

Nuttal said usually people, who are sick with Ebola, felt so unwell they could not travel.  Therefore, she said WHO was advising against travel bans to and from affected countries.

Centers for Disease Control, stages of Ebola virus
Centers for Disease Control, stages of Ebola virus

West Africa is in the grips of the worst Ebola epidemic on record. More than 1,800 people are infected with the disease and more than 1,000 have died, most in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Nigeria reports nine cases and two deaths. One person who died flew to Lagos from Monrovia, Liberia.

But, that person was allowed on the plane before WHO declared Ebola an International Public Health Emergency.  Nuttal said WHO recommended that airlines screen passengers going to or coming from Ebola-affected countries before allowing them to board the plane.

"They need to be able and prepared to detect, investigate, as they would do, generally speaking all year long any disease that may occur. This is the purpose of international health regulations - ensure that all countries do have the capacity to detect any event, that is something serious, severe…and able to immediately provide adequate treatment for that person," she said.

If someone was confirmed to have Ebola, she said that person would have to be isolated.

The World Health Organization says the perceived risk of catching Ebola is quite different from the real risk, which is very low. It says countries should carefully balance these risks before considering a travel ban. It says such bans have a bad economic impact on the travel and trade of targeted countries and are unwarranted.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid