Ebola patient had no symptoms on Frontier flight
The second Dallas health-care worker diagnosed with Ebola traveled Monday on a Frontier Airlines flight, so health officials said Wednesday they are contacting passengers from the flight to alert them as a precaution.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is asking all 132 passengers from Frontier flight 1143, which landed at 8:16 p.m. CT Monday after a flight from Cleveland to Dallas-Fort Worth, to call the CDC at 800-232-4636.
David Zalubowski, AP
Frontier Airlines jets sit at gates in 2010 at Denver International Airport.
Public health officials are interviewing passengers and answering their questions. Anyone determined to be at risk will be monitored.
Amber Vinson, 26, of Dallas exhibited no symptoms on the flight but developed a fever the next day and tested positive for Ebola late Tuesday. Vinson had cared for Thomas Duncan, a Liberian who died Oct. 8 from Ebola.
CDC Director Tom Frieden said Vinson “should not have been allowed to travel by plane or any public transport by virtue of the fact that she was in an exposed group” who treated Duncan. But she didn’t report symptoms and she took her temperature, which was 99.5 degrees before the flight.
Health-care workers who treated Duncan were monitoring themselves for symptoms. Frieden said that under their status for “controlled movement,” health-care workers could use cars or charter flights but should not have used public transport such as an airline.
“She should not have been on that plane.”
Tom Frieden, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
“She should not have been on that plane,” he said.
“I don’t think that changes the level of risk of people around her,” Frieden said. “She did not vomit. She was not bleeding. So the level of risk of people around her would be extremely low. But because of that extra margin of safety, we will be contacting them all.”
Vinson left for Ohio before the first health-care worker became ill, Frieden said. So health-care workers were still simply monitoring themselves for symptoms.
“All were under self-monitoring and were not being actively monitored because at that point it was not known that there had been exposures in the care of the first patient,” Frieden said.
Ricky Smith, director of the Cleveland airport, said workers are being educated about Ebola transmission and facilities, such as the bridge between the terminal and plane, are being cleaned. But he noted that the infected traveler wasn’t exhibiting symptoms.
“At this point, there is no reason to believe that facilities were contaminated or infected,” Smith said. “We’re not introducing new emergency response efforts here.”
The decontaminated Frontier Airlines plane that had carried Vinson took off at 6:40 p.m. ET for Dallas without any passengers aboard. A weak bleach solution, soap and water or sunlight can kill the virus.
Jim Corridore, an equity analyst at S&P Capital IQ, said airline stocks suffered from the revelation that an Ebola patient took a flight the day before exhibiting symptoms. But without any transmission aboard a flight, he said the concerns are exaggerated.
“The CDC stated this disease is only contracted through contact with body fluids of a patient showing active symptoms,” Corridore said. “We think fears related to Ebola are overblown at this time.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, called for CDC and the federal Department of Health and Human Services to monitor people potentially exposed to Ebola in northeast Ohio.
“This includes close coordination with Ohio health officials and medical facilities, tracking and monitoring of Ohioans who may have been in contact with the patient, and the readying and potential deployment of infection experts to Ohio,” Brown said.
Vinson was visiting family in Akron, Ohio, before returning home to Texas from Cleveland’s Hopkins International Airport, according to Ohio Department of Health officials.
She previously flew Oct. 10 on Frontier flight 1142 from Dallas to Cleveland, according to the CDC and Frontier. But Toinette Parrilla, the Cleveland health director, said local health officials think she initially traveled Oct. 8, the day Duncan died.
The plane on which she traveled “received a thorough cleaning per our normal procedures which is consistent with CDC guidelines prior to returning to service the next day,” Frontier said in a statement. “It was also cleaned again in Cleveland (Tuesday) night.”
Frontier said it would continue to work with CDC and other governmental agencies.
“The safety and security of our customers and employees is our primary concern,” the airline said.
Contributing: WKYC-TV, Cleveland
Worried? Here’s what airlines are told to do
If Ebola is suspected in an airline passenger or crewmember, CDC suggestions include these:
• Keeping the person separated from others.
• Providing the person with a surgical mask to reduce fluids expelled from talking, sneezing or coughing.
• Wearing impermeable gloves.
The agency also has guidelines for airline cleaning crews after an Ebola patient is determined to be on a flight:
• Wearing impermeable gloves to clean the passenger cabin and lavatories.
• Wiping down bathroom surfaces and other frequently touched places with a chemical germicide registered with the Environmental Protection Agency.
• Avoiding the use of compressed air, which could spread infectious materials.
• Removing and discarding any seat covers soiled with fluids.
• Cleaning hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer after any gloves used in the cleaning process are removed.