Frontier Airlines is taking extra precautions after a passenger tested positive for Ebola shortly after flying from Cleveland to Dallas on one of their planes.
Dallas nurse Amber Vinson was among the health care workers who provided care for Thomas Eric Duncan, who died of Ebola on October 8. She flew aboard the plane on the evening of October 13, on the aircraft’s last flight of the day.
CEO of Frontier Airlines David Siegel emailed airline employees to outline plans for the aircraft.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vinson reported a low-grade fever before boarding Flight 1143. Frontier had already taken the plane out of service after learning Vinson was aboard, but is taking additional measures after learning that the nurse, “may have been symptomatic earlier than initially suspected; including the possibility of possessing symptoms while on board the flight,” Siegel writes.
Siegel says the plane had already been cleaned three times, but would receive a fourth cleaning in light of the latest information from the CDC. This cleaning will include “the removal of seat covers and carpets in the immediate vicinity of the passenger seat,” as well as changing the environmental filters on board the aircraft.
Frontier’s extreme measures are not mandated by the CDC, whose “Ebola Guidance for Airlines” guide only suggests cleaning airline upholstery, carpets, or storage compartments that are obviously soiled with bodily fluids. Ebola is only spread through “direct contact by touching the blood or other body fluids (such as feces, saliva, urine, vomit or semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola.”
The airline has also voluntarily placed the six-person flight crew — two pilots and four flight attendants — on paid leave for 21 days, the normal incubation period for the virus.
This precaution was also not required or even recommended by the CDC, but merely an extra precaution Frontier has taken. Siegel states in his letter that the steps were taken “out of concern for the safety of our customers and employees.” Frontier expects the aircraft will return to service in a few days.
Both Vinson, and fellow Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital nurse Nina Pham, who also treated Thomas Eric Duncan and later tested positive for Ebola, have now tested negative for the virus. Nina Pham was announced cured, and released from a National Institutes of Health Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland on Friday.
Seven people have been treated for Ebola in the United States, and of those seven, only Duncan has died. This is likely due to early diagnosis and treatment, and receiving their treatment in the U.S. All the other U.S. Ebola patients were first treated for the disease in Africa, where supplies and facilities are limited, but need is great. According to the World Health Organization, 70% of African Ebola patients are dying of the disease.
Duncan, the only U.S. patient to die of the disease, was sick for at least four days before being admitted to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.