Man removed from flight in Phoenix after TB alert

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 02, 2013 6:46 PM

PHOENIX (Reuters) - A man suspected of having tuberculosis was removed from a US Airways Express flight with 70 passengers aboard shortly after it landed in Phoenix over the weekend, authorities said on Monday.

The man was removed from a flight from Austin, Texas, on Saturday, one of the busiest U.S. travel days of the year, after an alert from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Even if TB is confirmed in the traveler, the risk to other passengers and the crew is extremely low ... we are not recommending other precautions," CDC spokesman Benjamin Haynes said.

A US Airways spokesman said the Transportation Security Administration had not flagged the passenger prior to the flight, although once in the air the CDC notified the airline that he had "do not board" status.

A document on the CDC's website said they do not board list was intended "to prevent persons who are contagious from boarding commercial aircraft." It mentioned pulmonary tuberculosis as one such communicable disease.

"After the flight left, the CDC notified the TSA who notified us," US Airways spokesman Bill McGlashen said. "We stopped short of the gate and then consulted with CDC and then we proceeded to the gate. That's where firefighters, paramedics met the flight."

Arizona public health officials said passengers were not deemed as being at significant risk if exposed to someone with active tuberculosis during a flight of fewer than eight hours duration.

Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director for disease control at the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, told Reuters the flight was only four hours long.

"Additionally, the patient was not coughing, so the likelihood that the bacteria from his lungs, if he does have TB, got onto another passenger from the plane is very low," she added.

After the plane was stopped, some passengers reported that a firefighter announced over the intercom that everyone on board had been exposed to tuberculosis and should see their doctors immediately, The Arizona Republic newspaper reported on Monday.

However, Sunenshine said the passengers did not need to seek testing for the disease, which usually attacks the lungs and can be fatal if not treated properly.

(Reporting by Tim Gaynor; editing by Andrew Hay, Cynthia Johnston and David Gregorio)