Spreading Disease?

Threats of spreading infection over air travel impact disease agencies, corporate travel


Last year, CDC officials worked with airlines and state health departments to track two infected airline passengers who may have helped spread a mumps epidemic throughout the Midwest.

And in March, a flight from Hong Kong was held at Newark International Airport for two hours because some of them reported feeling ill from a flu-like illness. They were released when it became clear they had seasonal flu, and not an avian variety.

Medical experts say TB is significantly less contagious than flu, SARS or other maladies that have led to airport alerts.

"This is not as easily transmissible as what we're concerned about with a flu pandemic," said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University.

A more contagious bug, carried by a stubborn or evasive passenger, could be much more problematic, experts said.

Indeed, it's remarkable how rare are the incidents of serious contagions on planes, Ho noted.

"If you count the number of international flights there are on a daily basis, this is really a minuscule event" in terms of rate of occurrence, he said.

"However this underscores the interrelatedness of the global community. We can no longer escape things considered foreign" in this age of jet-travel, Ho said.

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Associated Press writer Malcolm Ritter in New York contributed to this report.

<<Associated Press WorldStream -- 06/01/07>>