Passenger with Ebola arrives in Dallas

On September 30, 2014, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the first case of Ebola to be diagnosed in the US involved an airline passenger, Thomas Eric Duncan, who had flown from Monrovia, Liberia to Dallas, Texas stopovers in Brussels, Belgium, and at Washington Dulles Airport.

The passenger, who departed from Liberia on September 19th and arrived in Dallas the next day, did not display any symptoms while he was traveling, and fell ill four days after he arrived.

Below are some additional details on how this happened, and links to Ebola resources for passengers, flight crews, and others.

What flights did the passenger take?
While the CDC and the airlines used by this patient have not formally released details of how this passenger was able to fly to the US, various media outlets have reported that Duncan took the following flights:

  • Brussel Airlines flight 1247; Monrovia, Liberia to Brussels, Belgium; September 19th
  • United Airlines flight 951; Brussels, Belgium to Washington, DC (Dulles Airport); September 20th
  • United Airlines flight 822; Washington, DC to Dallas, TX (DFF); September 20th

When was this passenger diagnosed?
Ebola has an incubation period of up to 21 days before any symptoms may appear, and during this time the infected may appear to be healthy. The CDC reported that Duncan arrived in the US on September 20th, felt ill on September 24th, and first sought treatment on September 25th.

According to the hospital, although Duncan admitted that he was visiting the US from Africa, he was diagnosed with a low-risk infection and sent home. He was finally admitted to the hospital on September 28th, and tested positive for Ebola on September 30th.

Unfortunately, in spite of intensive medical care, Duncan passed away just over a week later on October 8th.

Why was this passenger allowed to fly?
Although Duncan was reportedly exposed to Ebola while in Liberia, there are no reports that he was exhibiting Ebola-related symptoms while he was in Liberia, or during any part of his trip to the US. However, Liberia authorities indicate that Duncan, who is a Liberian citizen, would be prosecuted for lying on a health form required for travelers departing the country. On that form, Duncan stated that he had not been exposed to someone infected with Ebola when in fact he had been exposed to Ebola.

Were other travelers at risk?
It is unlikely that Duncan infected others during his trip. According to the CDC, a person can become infected with the Ebola virus from direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person. Especially if the person is exhibiting Ebola-related symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. Duncan was apparently not exhibiting any of these symptoms while he was traveling.

What to do if you think you have been exposed?
If you believe that you have been exposed to Ebola, the CDC suggests that you contact your medical provider even if you do not have symptoms. Your provider should evaluate your exposure level and any symptoms you may have in order to determine what further actions,such as medical evaluation and testing for Ebola, are needed.

CDC suggests that travelers from Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, or Sierra Leone should monitor their health for symptoms such as fever greater than 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit, severe headache, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, or unexplained bruising or bleeding, for 21 days after travel. If symptoms develop, they should see a healthcare provider as soon as any of these symptoms develop, letting them know of their travel history and symptoms.

Airport screening in the US
New screening measures, which will be put into place starting October 11th, will be at five airports: New York's JFK and Newark airports, Washington Dulles, Chicago O'Hare, and Atlanta. You can visit for an analysis of the effectiveness of those measures, and you can also listen to Todd Curtis and CJOB radio's Charles Adler discussing Ebola airline travel issues , in this interview from October 9th.

More about Ebola
For more details about Ebola, including links to information for travelers, airline crews, airport crews, and others who may be exposed to people infected with Ebola, visit the Ebola information page.

Passenger with Ebola arrives in Dallas -- Revised 12 October 2014