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CDC hunts for airline passengers on same flight as new Dallas Ebola patient

A Moroccan health worker uses a thermometer to screen a passenger at the arrivals hall of the Mohammed V airport in Casablanca, on Thursday, Oct 9, 2014. Airline passengers arriving in the U.S. from three West African countries will face temperature checks using no-touch thermometers and other screening measures at five American airports, starting with New York’s Kennedy on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2014.
A Moroccan health worker uses a thermometer to screen a passenger at the arrivals hall of the Mohammed V airport in Casablanca, on Thursday, Oct 9, 2014. Airline passengers arriving in the U.S. from three West African countries will face temperature checks using no-touch thermometers and other screening measures at five American airports, starting with New York’s Kennedy on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2014. AP

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reaching out to 132 airline passengers who were on the same flight with a Dallas health care worker who later tested positive for Ebola.

Frontier Airlines flight 1143 from Cleveland to Dallas/ Fort Worth Airport landed at 8:16 p.m. Monday, Oct. 12, just one day before a passenger began showing symptoms of the Ebola virus.

“Because of the proximity in time between the evening flight and first report of illness the following morning, CDC is reaching out to passengers,’ the agency said in a statement.

Although crew members said the passenger showed no signs of illness, the CDC is asking all passengers on the flight to call 1 800-CDC INFO (1 800 232-4636).

“After 1 p.m. ET, public health professionals will begin interviewing passengers about the flight, answering their questions, and arranging follow up. Individuals who are determined to be at any potential risk will be actively monitored,” the CDC said in a statement.

Frontier is working closely with CDC to identify and notify passengers.

In a statement, the airline said the “flight landed in Dallas/Fort Worth at 8:16 p.m. local and remained overnight at the airport having completed its flying for the day at which point the aircraft received a thorough cleaning per our normal procedures which is consistent with CDC guidelines prior to returning to service the next day.”

“It was also cleaned again in Cleveland last night. Previously the customer had traveled from Dallas/Fort Worth to Cleveland on Frontier flight 1142 on October 10,” the airline added. “Frontier responded immediately upon notification from the CDC by removing the aircraft from service.”

“The safety and security of our customers and employees is our primary concern,” the airline added. “Frontier will continue to work closely with CDC and other governmental agencies to ensure proper protocols and procedures are being followed.”

The incident is exactly the type that can send a chill through the traveling public.

Eight U.S. airlines belonging to the trade group Airlines for America, including the largest passenger carriers, “are in continuous contact with health and safety officials to ensure we are doing all we can to protect the well-being of our passengers, our crewmembers and the American public,” said Victoria Day, chief spokeswoman for the group.

She said that the airlines are working with the CDC and the Department of Homeland Security, just as they did during outbreaks of the SARS and H1N1 viruses “to mitigate risk to the traveling public and airline employees.”

“While we understand there is heightened concern, it’s important to remember that this is not an airborne disease, nor is it easily transmittable, particularly when common hygiene precautions are followed,” Day said. “The CDC has consistently noted that there is virtually no risk to air travelers, no matter where you travel.”

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