The airline that unknowingly transported an Ebola-stricken nurse on a flight from Ohio to Texas has placed six crew members on paid leave out of “an abundance of caution," and said it was warned by health officials about “the possibility” that the passenger had symptoms during the flight.
Frontier Airlines CEO David Siegel said in a letter to employees that the airline was told by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wednesday that nurse Amber Vinson “may have been symptomatic earlier than initially suspected; including the possibility of possessing symptoms while onboard the flight.” The airline says no symptoms were detected by the crew.
Vinson, a Texas nurse who treated Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan and later tested positive for the deadly disease, flew from Dallas to Cleveland on Oct. 8 - the day her patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, died. She flew back from Cleveland to Dallas on Frontier Flight 1143 on Monday while she had a mild fever. The CDC said it was asking the more than 130 passengers who were also on the flight to call a CDC hotline. Vinson is now being treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
Siegel said four flight attendants and two pilots involved in that flight were put on 21-day paid leave, that the jet was taken out of service as soon as the airline learned Wednesday a sick passenger may have been aboard, and that the jet cleaned and the seat covers and carpets near Vinson’s seat would be removed.
“We take today’s events seriously as your safety and that of our customers is always at the forefront of everything we do,” Siegel said in the letter. “This was over and above CDC guidance that stated that our flight crews were safe to fly.”
The plane, registration N220FR, continued to transport passengers on Tuesday, and made five flights to airports in Cleveland, Fort Lauderdale and Atlanta before the airline was notified of the sick passenger on Wednesday.
— Phil Helsel