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A guide for fliers worried about Ebola outbreak

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 5, 2014 at 3:30 pm •  Published: August 5, 2014
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British Airways announced Tuesday that it is suspending flights to and from Liberia and Sierra Leone until Aug. 31 "due to the deteriorating public health situation in both countries." Passengers with tickets can request a full refund or a flight at a later date.

Lufthansa notes that "there is no risk of getting infected by the Ebola virus via air circulation during flight." Crews on Brussels Airlines flights have access to special thermoscans to check passengers' temperature, if they feel it's necessary. The only other airline, so far, to cancel any flights is the Middle East airline Emirates. It has suspended its service to Conakry, Guinea, until further notice. It is still flying to Dakar.

Q: Are passengers leaving Africa being screened?

A: Since the outbreak erupted, the CDC has sent about two dozen staffers in West Africa to help try to track cases, set up emergency response operations and provide other help to control the outbreak. Last week, CDC officials said the agency will send 50 more in the next month. CDC workers in Africa also are helping to screen passengers at airports, according to CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden.

Q: Is the U.S. government doing anything extra for arriving passengers?

A: Border patrol agents at Washington's Dulles International Airport and New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, in particular, are looking out for travelers who might have been exposed to the virus. They're watching for signs of fever, achiness, sore throat, stomach pain, rash or red eyes. The CDC also has staff at 20 U.S. airports and border crossings evaluating travelers with signs of dangerous infectious diseases and isolating them when necessary.

Q: Has the airline industry dealt with any outbreaks in the past?

A: In 2003, there was a global outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. The disease was first reported in Asia but quickly spread to more than two dozen countries in North America, South America and Europe. Unlike Ebola, SARS can spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. During the 2003 outbreak, 8,098 people worldwide became sick with SARS; 774 of those died. Airports started screening incoming passengers for fever. The disease was devastating for airlines because fearful passengers stayed home.

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With reports from AP Medical Writer Mike Stobbe, New York.

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Scott Mayerowitz can be reached at http://twitter.com/GlobeTrotScott.