Flight attendants call for tougher Ebola screening

Flight attendants concerned they are "most likely to be exposed"

One day after the Obama administration said it was developing new Ebola screening procedures for airports, a flight attendants union said existing measures do not go far enough to protect passengers and crew.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the Association of Flight Attendants said its 60,000 members on 19 airlines are "most likely to be exposed" to Ebola if a passenger with the deadly disease flies on a commercial plane.

The statement comes in contrast to comments the group made Monday, when a spokeswoman said flight attendants are "prepared to handle these type of situations, just like they did with H1N1 and SARS," referring to the so-called swine flu outbreak and severe acute respiratory syndrome.

Instead, the group's international president, Sara Nelson, suggested Tuesday that flight attendants are being asked to do too much in the fight against Ebola.

"We are not, however, professional health care providers and our members have neither the extensive training nor the specialized personal protective equipment required for handling an Ebola patient," she said in a statement.

After a meeting Monday between President Obama and his top advisors, the administration announced that it was developing new screening procedures for airline passengers.

Such procedures have yet to be announced but will most likely focus on having health officials question and test passengers arriving at U.S. airports from West Africa. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has quarantine centers at 20 U.S. airports, including Los Angeles International Airport.

So far, the disease is suspected in the deaths of approximately 3,400 in West Africa. The only known Ebola patient to fly into the U.S. from West Africa, Thomas Duncan, flew on connecting flights from Brussels on United Airlines.

No airline in the U.S. flies directly to Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone, the three countries most ravaged by the disease. Most travelers from those countries fly to the U.S. via Paris, Brussels or Nigeria.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.

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