More than 1,200 cases of Ebola have been diagnosed in the worst-ever outbreak of the disease. Although Ebola is only spread through close contact with bodily fluids, the fear of it spreading through air travel is motivating some airlines to take precautions.
The World Health Organization has emphasized that Ebola is spread by close contact with the bodily fluids of people who are infected.
“This is not an airborne virus,” Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, said to the presidents of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone in an email.
Still, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning against non-essential travel to the West African countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, where the outbreak has had the worst impact. Much of the work to control the disease is being done in the communities where the outbreaks are; beyond those efforts, governments and airline and airport authorities are making decisions with the information they have.
ASKY and Arik
Regional African airlines Arik and ASKY halted flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone last week.
Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian-American who died of Ebola in late July, had taken several ASKY flights, from Liberia to Ghana, Togo and Nigeria. His death fueled fears that people traveling by plane could contribute to the spread of the virus.
The Dubai-based airline Emirates suspended flights to Guinea Saturday in response to fears about Ebola. Emirates is continuing flights to Senegal to the north.
"We apologize for any inconvenience caused to our customers. However, the safety of our passengers and crew is of the highest priority and will not be compromised," the airline said in a statement.
British Airways announced in a statement Tuesday it would halt flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone until Aug. 31.
"The safety of our customers, crew and ground teams is always our top priority and we will keep the routes under constant review in the coming weeks," the airline stated.
Customers who were planning to fly the affected routes can get a full refund or rebook for alternate destinations or a later travel date.
In Liberia, the chairman of the Airport Authority board, Binya Kesselly, said police are enforcing precautions at the airport, watching out for travelers who appear unwell.
"If you have a flight and you are not complying with the rules, we will not allow you to board,"Kesselly said.
And according to the Times of India, Indian officials are asking airports to screen passengers for Ebola symptoms.
Tags: AIRLINES, EBOLA, EBOLA OUTBREAK, TRAVEL, US & World, WORLD