The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA), representing nearly 60,000 Flight Attendants at 19 airlines, today called on government and public health officials to collaborate on more extensive health screenings of passengers travelling from areas affected by the current Ebola outbreak.
In a statement, the union said recent events have shown that, today, the airlines and health officials rely too heavily on voluntary disclosure by passengers boarding flights out of Western Africa, where the outbreak is centered.
"Flight Attendants are the first responders to in-flight medical emergencies and we handle a myriad of health related situations. We are not, however, professional health care providers and our members have neither the extensive training nor the specialized personal protective equipment required for handling an Ebola patient," stated Sara Nelson, AFA International President.
"While contracting Ebola in-flight is highly unlikely, the globalization of today's aviation industry requires that new, stronger measures must be implemented to protect passengers and crew. AFA will continue to meet with government and airline officials to work on identifying methods that can more thoroughly screen passengers for Ebola before they board a flight," Nelson stated. "We will advocate for all measures necessary to ensure the health and safety of our members."
AFA has been working with various health and governmental agencies regarding heightened screening of airline passengers.
The chances of any random member of the U.S. public being exposed to the virus are extremely small. However, if an infected passenger enters the U.S. on a commercial flight, it will be the Flight Attendants on that aircraft who are most likely to be exposed. Once an infected person is in flight, the options are limited. It is, therefore, imperative that efforts be increased prior to boarding to ensure that those who may be experiencing Ebola-like symptoms remain grounded.