The Effect of Ebola on the Air Travel Industry

Source:  The Effect of Ebola on the Air Travel Industry    Tag:  ebola virus effects
  As Ebola takes the world by storm (thanks in part to our media), the air travel industry looks to be one of the hardest hit. Fears of contracting Ebola are rising to levels near paranoia, and airlines are trying to calm everyone down and deem air travel safe, though recent events have not helped their cause. As Ebola continues to claim lives, what will be the effect of the disease on the air travel industry? 
   Ebola so far is mostly limited to western Africa (it can be spread, the Liberian man who died in the U.S. flew in from Liberia) but there have been recent cases in Spain and the U.S. With any contagious disease (remember Ebola is NOT airborne, it is transmitted through bodily fluids) people look to air travel as one of the culprits of spreading the disease. The chances of getting infected with Ebola on an airplane right now is extremely low, mostly because the disease is not airborne. It starts getting messy when the person right next to you is experiencing a fever, vomiting, etc. They probably do not have the Ebola virus, but the first thing any passenger in that situation now immediately thinks is that they are going to get infected with Ebola from that person and die, so they immediately contact a flight attendant, and a hazmat team meets the airplane on the ground. This just happened in Boston the other day. Emirates flight 237 from Dubai (a major connecting hub for African traffic,) had five passengers on board that were experiencing Ebola like symptoms. Ambulances whisked the passengers with Ebola-like symptoms away while all the remaining passengers had to sit on the tarmac while the hazmat crews assessed the situation. None of the passengers experiencing the Ebola-like symptms actually had the virus. United Airlines flight 703 from New York JFK to Los Angeles had a woman on board who was vomiting. The flight was met by hazmat crews and the plane was on the tarmac for more than two hours, the woman did not have the Ebola virus. One of the reasons for all these false alarms is the similarity of Ebola symptoms to other common diseases like the flu. The woman on United Airlines flight 703 was merely air sick, but because of the fear of Ebola, everybody thought the worst.   
   It's not just passengers who are afraid of getting Ebola, airlines could have a potential problem on their hands as airline cabin cleaners have recently gone on strike at New York Laguardia. The cleaners say their health is at risk because they have to come into contact with bodily fluids while cleaning (Ebola is transmitted through bodily fluids). Flight attendants have also expressed concerns over contracting Ebola and are calling for stricter screening of passengers. To limit the spread of Ebola, screenings for international passengers start this week at four U.S. gateway airports: Washington Dulles, Chicago O-Hare, Atlanta and Newark. Ebola screening started this week at London Heathrow. Are the screenings effective? Some people have argued that the screenings are being implemented just to calm the fears of air travellers. For example, the Liberian man who died of Ebola in the U.S. did not show symptoms until a few days after already being in the U.S. 
   How hard will the airline industry be hit? It all depends on how far or fast Ebola spreads. Right now the media has been hyping the possibility of Ebola infection incredibly. With vaccinations being furiously worked on, this Ebola scare could pass by the summer of 2015. As the U.S. transitions into the chaotic holiday travel season along with the beginning of flu season, expect more false alarms on flights like we've seen in the past week. Unless Ebola infects the western world, don't expect more than just false alarms.

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