People sick with tuberculosis should not use commercial transportation for long trips because of the danger of spreading the germ in airline cabins and other close quarters, the government said Thursday.
The warning came in a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about outbreaks of TB among airline passengers and crew members. But CDC officials said the risk of catching TB on a plane is still low.
People in the infectious stage of TB should use private transportation for long trips to avoid endangering others, the CDC said. The warning does not apply to short trips, such as those on city buses or subways.
TB is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes bacteria-laden water droplets into the air.
The warning came as the CDC reported at least four cases of TB being spread among airline passengers and crew members since 1992. In one case, a flight attendant spread the disease to as many as 13 other crew members and an unknown number of passengers.
The CDC also investigated the case of a TB patient infecting at least three passengers and one crew member on a flight from Baltimore to Honolulu.
The greatest risk of transmitting TB on the airplanes was to those sitting closest to the ill passenger and on flights longer than eight hours, the CDC said.