Airlines have begun cutting flights to West Africa and screening passengers to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus.
Emirates recently became the first major carrier to suspend flights to Guinea, following the recent outbreak of the virus in the country. African airlines Asky and Arik Air have also ceased operating services to Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Meanwhile Thai Airways announced yesterday a series of measures to stop the spread of Ebola on its flights. The national carrier has unveiled a series of “preventative measures”, including observing and screening passengers during check-in, prior to departure and during the flight, plus the use disinfectant spray in the cabins and “deep cleaning” of aircraft interiors.
In the US, federal agents at US airports are also on the look-out for travellers from Africa displaying flu-like symptoms, with border agents at airports in New York and Washington DC in particular told to be on alert.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said it is “coordinating closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) with respect to potential implications [of Ebola] for air connectivity”.
The WHO is not currently recommending any travel restrictions or the closure of borders, and states that the risk of a tourist becoming infected with Ebola during a visit to the affected countries is “extremely low”.
It also states that “it is highly unlikely that someone suffering such symptoms would feel well enough to travel”.
Despite this, there is a notably sense of nervousness among the airline community about the spread of Ebola, following recent outbreaks of SARS, ‘bird flu’ and other viruses in recent years.
According to the UN, more than 800 Ebola deaths have been recorded in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia this year.