How passengers with contagious diseases are kept off flights

More than 70 passengers on a US Airways Express plane were recently surprised to see police and paramedics board the jet in Phoenix and announce that a fellow flier might have the contagious airborne disease tuberculosis.

Further tests by the Maricopa County Public Health Department in Phoenix determined a few days later that the passenger was not infected with TB.

But don't fret. It is extremely rare for a passenger with a highly contagious disease to board a commercial plane, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Local health officials alert the CDC about people with highly contagious diseases, and the center notifies the Transportation Security Administration, which adds those names to a "do-not-board" list. It is similar to the "no-fly" list used to keep potential terrorists off commercial jets.

The US Airways Express passenger was apparently added to the do-not-board list after he already got on the plane. It's the first time TSA officials say they can recall a passenger being added to the list after getting on a plane.

Since May 2007, 314 people have been put on the do-not-board list, and only 68 people are currently on the list, according to CDC spokesman Benjamin N. Haynes.

Here's how the process works: If you are on a plane, seated within four to seven seats of an infected passenger, the CDC will contact you, using the flight's manifest to identify who has been exposed. How many passengers are contacted depends on the disease, how it spreads and where the infected passenger was seated, according to the CDC.

Passengers are added to the do-not-board list if they have one of nine contagious diseases: tuberculosis, cholera, smallpox, diphtheria, plague, yellow fever, viral hemorrhagic fever, SARS or a flu that can cause a pandemic.

But the process makes it very difficult for infected fliers to get on a plane, Haynes said.

"With the exception of TB, most of the other diseases are extremely rare or eradicated, in the case of smallpox, so the issue hasn't arisen," he said.

Car rental firms staying green, clean

Hertz and Enterprise, two of the world's largest car rental companies, have tried to win the hearts of environmentalists by renting out electric vehicles.

Now both companies are going even greener by launching car-washing systems that use less water to keep their rentals looking new.

Hertz has begun to use a biodegradable spray solution that is wiped off with microfiber towels at 220 locations across the country. Next year, Hertz hopes to expand the program to all 3,700 locations in the U.S. and Europe, saving more than 130 million gallons of water annually.

Not to be outdone, Enterprise is expanding to its rental outlets in Hawaii and California a non-toxic washing system that is now used only in certain New York and Boston locations. The system uses a highly concentrated cleaning solution that is also sprayed on the cars, reducing its carbon footprint by 95%, compared with traditional car-washing methods, according to the manufacturer.

Airlines are giving passengers some love

Air travelers have endured a lot of grief from airlines over the last few years because of ever-shrinking seats and a proliferation of passenger fees, among other changes.

But fliers are finally getting some love in return.

American Airlines passengers on specific flights landing at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday will find gift boxes landing on the baggage carousel. As part of a promotion with Coca-Cola, the airline will give out gift boxes containing 250 AAdvantage miles certificates, a Coca-Cola polar bear or a blanket. The same type of promotion will take place Monday at Chicago O'Hare International Airport.

But American and Coca-Cola are not alone in trying to make points with fliers. The online shopping site launched a promotion Thanksgiving Day at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport. A particular baggage carousel at the airport was decorated with pictures of Zappos merchandise, such as jackets and boots.

Whatever picture passengers' luggage landed on, that is the merchandise they were awarded.

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