Report: Ebola Patient's Plane Went On to Stop in Fort Lauderdale. CDC Gave Nurse Permission to Fly (Updated)
Update, 7:08 p.m.: Airport spokesperson Greg Meyer said "Frontier is reaching out to their passengers. Nothing to add from our side at this time." He also provided a copy of airport protocols should a plane land with a passenger potentially infected with Ebola. It is copied at the end of this blog post and explains that only emergency medical professionals would be allowed to enter the plane and they would be in contact with the CDC. Patients suspected to have Ebola would be transported to a hospital and anyone in close contact with him/her would fill out a form then deplane. The airport is preparing an empty hangar as a staging area in case of an extreme event requiring quarantine.
Update, 8:33 a.m.: The CBS Evening News is reporting the CDC gave Nurse Amber Vinson permission to fly. "This nurse, Nurse Vinson, did in fact call the CDC several times before taking that flight and said she has a temperature, a fever of 99.5, and the person at the CDC looked at a chart and because her temperature wasn't 100.4 or higher she didn't officially fall into the category of high risk," said CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. John LaPook.
A second health-care worker who has contracted Ebola from a patient in a Dallas hospital told officials she flew on a plane from Cleveland to Dallas-Fort Worth on Monday, a day before her symptoms appeared.
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Now, CBS News has used Flighttracker to show that after she disembarked in Dallas, the Frontier Airlines plane returned to Cleveland and then did two more round-trip flights: to Fort Lauderdale and back to Cleveland, then to Atlanta and back to Cleveland.
Frontier Airlines says that it was notified about 1 a.m. today that an Ebola-infected patient had been onboard and then took the plane out of service:
"At approximately 1:00 a.m. MT on October 15, Frontier was notified by the CDC that a customer traveling on Frontier Airlines flight 1143 Cleveland to Dallas/Fort Worth on Oct. 13 has since tested positive for the Ebola virus. 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.
Customers exhibited no symptoms or sign of illness while on flight 1143, according to the crew. Frontier responded immediately upon notification from the CDC by removing the aircraft from service and is working closely with CDC to identify and contact customers who may traveled on flight 1143.
Customers who may have traveled on either flight should contact CDC at 1 800 CDC-INFO.
The safety and security of our customers and employees is our primary concern. Frontier will continue to work closely with CDC and other governmental agencies to ensure proper protocols and procedures are being followed."
Patrick Jenkins,a Broward County health spokesperson, told New Times that the agency was still waiting for more information and that anyone on the affected plane who has concerns "should probably call the CDC" also.
A spokesperson at the Joint Information Center in Tallahassee said he would send more information when available.
New Times has left messages with the CDC, airport spokesman Greg Meyer, Broward Mayor Barbara Sharief, and the assistant to Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler.
Just days ago, officials met to prepare for Ebola threats. The Sun Sentinel reported that :
at a time when five other U.S. airports are upgrading Ebola-related screenings, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport officials met with health officials Thursday but have no immediate plans to tweak their response procedures, according to airport spokesman Greg Meyer...
"It's nothing new. We've been doing this for years," Meyer said of existing infectious disease protocols. "If it's not the avian bird flu, it's SARS or some other infectious disease."
Existing protocols call for potentially ill patients to be screened and quarantined, and for state and federal health officials to coordinate the response, Meyer said.
Here's the Broward Health Department's page about Ebola.
Meyer also provided a document of the Broward County Aviation Department's "Quick Reference Guide/ Contagious Disease Emergency Plan -- Ebola"
The following is the quick reference guide that has been refined as part of the Broward County
Aviation Department's (BCAD) Contagious Disease Emergency Plan, specifically for the Ebola
threat. The nature of the emergency may require deviation from standard procedure depending
on conditions. The following should be adhered to the closest extent possible.
• When Air Traffic Control or other agency is notified of an ill passenger on board an aircraft (international or domestic) the aircraft may proceed to the predetermined gate and passenger boarding bridge may be attached however the aircraft door must remain closed until Emergency Medical Services (EMS) arrives. ATC will make notification to EMS via the airport's crash phone. The Airport Operations Control Center (AOCC) will also receive the information. All efforts should be made by air crews to provide as much advanced notice as possible.
• The aircraft door may be opened once EMS has arrived and is prepared to enter. Only qualified and trained EMS personnel shall enter the aircraft. Broward Sheriff's Office (BSO) Law Enforcement, BCAD Operations, and airline personnel will respond to the area to aid with coordination and safety, however refrain from entering the aircraft. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may respond as applicable for international arrivals.
• EMS will conduct the evaluation of the potentially ill passenger(s). If they determine that guidance from the Center for Disease Control CDC is required, EMS will reach out to the CDC center in Miami telephonically.
• CDC will determine based on the information they receive what the risk factor is of the ill passenger. If CDC determines, the ill passenger will be transported to a local hospital and CDC will notify the hospital, as well as County/State Health Departments. This triggers notification to all agencies of the issue via the airport's mass notification system.
• For other passengers that are "close contact" (within 6 feet of the ill passenger), if conditions warrant and the ill passenger(s) is removed from the aircraft, and there is a determination from CDC that there may be risks, those passengers will be presented a Traveler Locator Form, which will be completed by the passenger, collected by EMS or CBP in the case of an international flight, then forwarded to CDC. Once the Traveler Locator Forms are collected, the passengers deplane the aircraft.
• Decontamination of the plane of any sort is the responsibility of the airline and should follow the guidance sent to each airline by CDC.
• Quarantine of an aircraft is highly unlikely; however, should extreme conditions warrant isolation, the aircraft with passengers and all contents will be relocated to the alternate facility. BCAD is preparing the empty hangar on the west side of Taxiway "E" as a contingency for an escalated event. If an event is escalated to such a level, the Airport's Emergency Operations Center will be activated and serve as a unified command area and resources outside of the airport will be contacted.
• An event that takes place in the terminals will follow similar protocol; however, BCAD's contractor will assume responsibility for decontamination. The radius around the ill passenger(s) that should be avoided by non-EMS responders is greater than 6 feet to avoid close contact.
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