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17 October 2014

Evolving issues with Ebola and air travel

The recent news that a nurse, Amber Joy Vinson, who was both infected by the Ebola virus and showing Ebola-related symptoms, was on an airline flight with 132 other passengers (and at least five crew members) was disturbing for a couple of reasons. The primary concern was that this nurse, who had a low-grade fever but no other Ebola-related symptoms, put all the passengers and crew on that plane at risk of being infected by the Ebola virus.

The secondary concern is that passengers on other flights may have also been exposed to the Ebola virus. The October 13th Frontier Airlines flight, which was flight number 1143, departed from Cleveland and flew to the Dallas DFW airport. This airport is a major hub airport for American as well a popular airport for international flights. It is likely that many of the passengers on that Frontier flight were changing planes in Dallas, may have exposed thousands of other passengers to the Ebola virus.

Nurse Vinson was not reckless or unaware of the risk of her flying. She had been directly involved with treating an Ebola patient in Dallas, and had been monitoring her health status for signs of an Ebola infection. She realized that she had a fever, which is a symptom of Ebola infection, and had contacted the Centers for Disease Control for advice on wether she should fly.

At the time, her fever was low enough to allow her to fly, and the CDC gave her permission to take that flight. Since then, the CDC has admitted that their decision was not the right one, and have changed their policy on travel by health workers who have been exposed to the Ebola virus.

Recent interviews
Below are several recent Ebola-related interviews and articles by Todd Curtis of

Additional resources
Background information on Ebola
Passenger with Ebola flies to Dallas
Patrick Smith of on air travel and Ebola

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