CDC’s Ebola Advice to Airline Crews: Watch for Passengers 'Using Restroom Many Times’

By Terence P. Jeffrey | October 8, 2014 | 1:43pm EDT

(AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has produced a video designed to instruct commercial airline crews on what they need to know and do considering that someone suffering from Ebola might end up on one of their flights.

The video advises crew members working in the passenger cabins of commercial airliners on international flights to watch for people “who seem unwell or are using the restroom many times.”

It also advises airline crew members that they “will not know what a sick traveler has,” but that they should “wear waterproof disposable gloves before touching an ill person or body fluids” and that they should protect themselves “from splashes or sprays by using a surgical mask, face shield, or goggles, and protective apron or gown."

While the video was posted online last week by the CDC, Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized today that it is the U.S. government’s desire to keep commercial airlines operating in and out of the Ebola-stricken regions of West Africa.

"We need airlines to continue to operate in West Africa and we need borders to remain open,” Kerry said at the State Department.

“Although the risk for Ebola is low you should still be on alert for passengers who are not feeling well,” says Dr. Phyllis Kozarsky in narrating the CDC’s Ebola instructional video for airline crews. Dr. Kozarsky is a medical consultant with the CDC’s division of global migration and quarantine. The video is entitled, "Ebola: What Airline Crew and Staff Need to Know."

“Observe passengers who seem unwell or are using the restroom many times," Dr. Kozarsky says in the video. "Ask them how they are felling, if they’ve had a fever, and if they were recently near a sick person with similar symptoms, including what countries they have visited during their trip.

“While these questions may help better assess if the passenger is at risk for having Ebola, it is important to note that Ebola symptoms are similar to many other illnesses such as malaria or even severe traveler’s diarrhea," she says. "Without further evaluation and lab tests you will not know what a sick traveler has.

“Therefore be safe and treat all bodily fluids as infectious," says the doctor. "Remember, hand-washing is your most important defense against infection. Always follow routine infection-control precautions. All international aircraft should carry universal precaution kits as recommended by ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organization].

“Use personal protective equipment if you have to manage an on-board ill traveler," the doctor continues. "And, if you have to manage an ill traveler on the plane, follow your airline’s procedures for medical assistance. Separate the ill-traveler from others as much as possible. If travelers are nauseated or vomiting don’t give them a surgical mask as it could cause harm to a traveler who is vomiting. Give them an air sickness bag, and give them a plastic bag for disposing used tissues or air sickness bags.

“To protect yourself while managing an ill patient wear waterproof disposable gloves before touching an ill person or body fluids," says the doctor on the video. "Protect yourself from splashes or sprays by using a surgical mask, face shield, or goggles, and protective apron or gown. Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth even when wearing gloves.

“And after helping a traveler take off your gloves very carefully. Throw away used gloves as per your airline’s infection control recommendation," she advises. "Even when wearing gloves wash hands with soap and water immediately after removing or changing your gloves.”

The CDC’s online page of “Ebola Guidelines for Airlines”--where the video is also posted--says that federal regulations do allow airlines to stop “travelers with serious contagious diseases that could spread during a flight.”

The CDC online guidelines say: “A U.S. Department of Transportation rule permits airlines to deny boarding to air travelers with serious contagious diseases that could spread during flight, including travelers with possible Ebola symptoms. This rule applies to all flights of U.S. airlines, and to direct flights (no change of planes) to or from the United States by foreign airlines.”

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