(CNN) – Dr. Suzanne Donovan is an expert on Ebola. She recently completed a month long stint in Sierra Leone treating Ebola victims.
Simon: What made you volunteer?
Donovan: Well this is what I do; I’m an infection disease physician.
She’s come with us aboard a 767 Jet Liner to discuss the risk Ebola could have to the American flying public.
Simon: So let’s say somebody has Ebola and they’re showing symptoms and you’re sitting next to that person. Any chance you can get it,
Donovan: I can understand the concern about passengers about being exposed, but this is something that is transmitted with direct contact on body fluids.
Simon: If saliva or bodily fluid gets on the tray or armrest, and you touch it, touch your nose, and touch your mouth.
Donovan: You’re bringing up very rare scenarios, and I would say you’re at greater risk of driving to the airport and getting into an accident than being on an airplane.
Fears have escalated since the revelation a Liberian nation was diagnosed with Ebola after flying to the United States. However, Dr. Donovan says Americans have little to worry about; from temperature and symptoms screenings in many African airports, to the low risk of coming into direct contact with body fluids of an infected patient.
Let’s assume a worst case scenario for a moment. That there is an infected person on board and that person is also showing symptoms. And you’re the unlucky passenger sitting right next to him. Even with those circumstances, Dr. Donovan says the risk of you getting the diseases is still very low.
Simon: What about just the fabric on the airplane, say for instance bodily fluids get on the fabric get on the seats. What’s the probability getting it that way?
Donovan: It’s very susceptible to cleaning agents, so even soap and water in Africa we use bleach solutions frequently, but even washing hands with soap and water will kill the virus.
Ebola is not an airborne virus, so unlike the flu, there’s little concern about getting it from someone who coughs or sneezes on a plane, but the UN Ebola Chief, raises the possibility, however remote, that the virus could mutate and become airborne.
Donovan: That would become a game changer.
A game changer because Ebola could become much more infectious, transmitted just like the flu.
Donovan: I’ve seen some of those concerns raised and clearly any virus that became airborne with this lethality rate would be alarming.
Until then, there seems to be no reason to alter flying habits.