Ebola Patient Flew on Plane Before Symptoms

airplane over water
(Image credit: Iryna Rasko | Shutterstock.com)

The second health care worker in Dallas who tested positive for Ebola flew on a plane the day before she developed symptoms of the deadly disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced today.

The health care worker traveled from Cleveland to Dallas/Fort Worth on Oct. 13 on Frontier Airlines flight 1143, CDC officials said. On Oct. 14, the woman developed a low-grade fever, and a preliminary test of the patient was positive for Ebola.

The health care worker did not have symptoms while on the flight, the CDC said. People with Ebola are contagious only after they start showing symptoms. But because the woman developed symptoms so soon after her flight, the CDC is reaching out to all passengers on the flight. The agency plans to interview all 132 passengers on the flight. [Could Ebola Really Be the 'Next AIDS'?]

The patient is the second health care worker to test positive for Ebola after treating Thomas Eric Duncan, a man from Liberia who was the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. The first health care worker, nurse Nina Pham, tested positive for the virus on Sunday.

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, only passengers seated one seat apart (in all directions) from a person with Ebola should be monitored for Ebola, because the disease is mainly transmitted by direct contact. It's not clear if this strategy will be used by the CDC in the new case.

In August, the World Health Organization said that the chance that a person with Ebola will spread the disease on an airplane is low, because the disease is not airborne.

Ebola is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids, such as blood or secretions, of an infected individual, or by contact with contaminated objects, such as needles and syringes, according to the CDC. 

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Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.