Ebola outbreak: a guide for worried fliers

European carriers are giving conflicting messages

As British Airways suspends flights to and from Liberia and Sierra Leone until the end of the month and the death toll from the Ebola outbreak which began in the forests of Guinea in February pushes towards the 1000 mark, Associated Press answers questions on how safe it is to fly.

Ebola has a fatality rate of about 60% and there is currently no vaccine and no specific treatment. It spreads through direct contact with the blood or fluids of an infected person or via contaminated needles. There is no airborne transmission.

Diseases that can spread through the air, like flu and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), are the most problematic for airlines. But European carriers are giving conflicting messages. BA explained its move was “due to the deteriorating public health situation in both countries.” Yet Lufthansa stresses “there is no risk of getting infected by the Ebola virus via air circulation during flight.”

Flight crews on Brussels Airlines have access to thermoscan equipment that can check passengers’ temperature, if they think it’s necessary. Some screening of passengers is taking place at airports in the affected countries.

In the US, border agents at major airports like Washington Dulles and New York JFK are “looking out for travellers who might have been exposed to the virus. They’re watching for signs of fever, achiness, sore throat, stomach pain, rash or red eyes,” AP says.


[pictured: Ebola virus virion; image courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Public Health]