Posted: October 21, 2014

Ebola Air-Travel Risks: What Business Travelers Should Know
Find out what business travelers should know about the Ebola virus.

Ebola has been capturing travel headlines for weeks, and the outbreak has started impacting business travelers' plans around the globe. According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, nearly 50 percent of Americans are so concerned about the Ebola outbreak that they are avoiding international travel. Despite the severity of the disease in West Africa, the fears of traveling may not be entirely well-grounded, according to health experts. So, to calm any potential anxiety that business travelers may have and help reduce the risk of contracting Ebola on a plane or at the airport, here's what you should know about the virus:

Risk of Catching Ebola on a Plane are Very Low

First, the odds of an Ebola-infected seatmate in the U.S. are miniscule. So far, only two infected travelers are known to have flown U.S. commercial airlines. 

Second, even if you were unlucky enough to get the spot next to a traveler with a yet-unknown infection, disease experts would put you at little or no risk. This is because people infected with Ebola are not contagious until they start showing symptoms, such as fever, body aches or stomach pain. The Liberian man who died in a Dallas hospital Oct. 8 wasn't ill until after he flew to the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And even passengers who were on the same Frontier Airlines flight as the nurse who flew from Ohio back to Dallas on Oct. 13 were said to have a low likelihood of being exposed, since the woman wasn't experiencing symptoms yet. 

Ebola is Not an Airborne Illness

It's important to point out that Ebola germs don't spread through the air the way flu does. Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with either the bodily fluids of someone who's actively sick with it, medical equipment that contains infected bodily fluids or infected animals. Contracting Ebola is not as simple as touching a door knob contaminated with a sick patient's germs. 

To calm fears, Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC, spoke before Congress in a relevant statement to all travelers. 

"We remain confident that Ebola is not a significant public health threat to the United States," Frieden wrote in testimony submitted for the hearing. "It is not transmitted easily, and it does not spread from people who are not ill, and cultural norms that contribute to the spread of the disease in Africa – such as burial customs and inadequate public health measures – are not a factor in the United States. We know Ebola can be stopped with rapid diagnosis, appropriate triage and meticulous infection-control practices in American hospitals."

Federal Security Measures

Federal officials have upped security measures to screen certain airline passengers for Ebola exposure. Passengers arriving from West African countries will face temperature checks as well as a questionnaire about their recent travel and health conditions. The screening measures have been implemented at five U.S. airports, including New York's Kennedy International Airport, Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson, Newark, New Jersey's Liberty International, Chicago's O'Hare International and the Washington region's Dulles International airport.

Travel Ban?

As of Oct. 17, the U.S. government is not ruling out an Ebola travel ban. While some say the ban will help reduce the risk of Ebola exposure and give trip goers peace of mind, others debate the ban's effectiveness.

Track Your Flights

Those with future travel plans may want to track their flights' origins, to check if the plane they're flying on came from West Africa. To do this, the website allows anyone to track where passenger aircraft came from, what cities they'll stop in and what their future flight plan is. Travelers can enter their airline and flight number for live flight tracking to garner additional details.

Health officials hope travelers can get back to business as usual in the upcoming weeks, with perhaps a few added precautions.

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