Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Government cites cases of airline passengers with communicable diseases

A story on USA Today on Wednesday July 21 reports that the federal government and Centers for Disease Control have logged over 3000 instances where people with communicable infectious diseases traveled by air, with link here.

Some of the problem comes from parents who do not what their kids to have vaccines because of fears like mercury and autism association. There have been reported cases of people traveling with measles and whooping cough. This is an anti-libertarian situation: what may be best for one individual or family may not be best for public health as a whole.

662 of the reports involved tuberculosis, which is normally hard to transmit despite the public health implications as often enforced. The case of an Atlanta man with unusual drug-resistant tuberculosis but few symptoms attracted attention a few years ago; the man wound up being required to have lung surgery. But no other passengers have been infected.

One man with lassa fever, a viral hemorrhagic infection, traveled from Brussels to and then within the US. No other passengers were infected. Hemorrhagic fevers generally are spread by blood contact but not through the air, but are among the most virulent infectious diseases known.

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