As health officials continue to monitor passengers who flew on two planes with an Ebola-infected flier, a flight attendants union has urged its members to be extra cautious handling bodily fluids.
The Assn. of Flight Attendants warned its 60,000 members on 19 airlines to be on the lookout for passengers exhibiting symptoms of Ebola, which has killed thousands in West Africa.
"Persons infected with the Ebola virus may exhibit symptoms such as a high fever, severe headache, nausea and/or abdominal pain," the notice on the union's Web page says. "If you observe these symptoms, report any concerns of a potentially infectious passenger to the captain and follow the reporting procedures as outlined by your airline."
"Additionally, all bodily fluids should be treated as if they are known to be contagious."
The notice also reminds flight attendants that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the risk of contracting Ebola simply by flying in the same plane as an infected flier is very low.
Asked if flight attendants are fearful of contracting the disease, a spokeswoman for the union said: "Flight attendants are very aware of this situation and remain vigilant. As first responders, flight attendants are prepared to handle these type of situations, just like they did with H1N1 and SARS," spokeswoman Corey Caldwell said, referring to past outbreaks of swine flu and severe acute respiratory syndrome, respectively.
The CDC reported over the weekend that a sick passenger on a flight from Brussels to Newark, N.J., was tested and found not to be infected with Ebola. "The patient was discharged from the emergency department feeling well," the agency said.
A Liberian man flew to the U.S. via Brussels Sept. 20 on two United Airlines flights and was diagnosed with Ebola days later in the U.S. He is being treated at a Dallas hospital. Other passengers on those flights are being monitored.
Meanwhile, the Air Line Pilots Assn. International, which represents 51,000 pilots from 31 airlines, said it has "full confidence in the air travel procedures currently in place related to the Ebola outbreak."
"Airports in countries affected by the Ebola virus are screening airline passengers, and various U.S. government agencies are working to monitor individuals arriving in the United States from affected international airports," the group said.