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A woman died of coronavirus on a Spirit Airlines plane. Her fellow passengers were never notified between Las Vegas and Dallas, USA


When Spirit Airlines learned that a Texas woman had died of covid-19 on one of its flights in July, the airline said it alerted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and received an acknowledgment from the agency.

But Spirit spokesman Erik Hofmeyer said it was never asked by health authorities to share passenger manifests to aid in tracking down people who might have been exposed.

State health officials in New Mexico, where the woman was declared dead after the Dallas-bound flight was diverted to Albuquerque, acknowledged they failed to investigate, as did the CDC.

The first the woman’s fellow passengers probably heard that her death was caused by the virus was in October, when The Washington Post and other news organizations were able to determine what flight the woman had been on, building on limited details about the case that were released by officials in Dallas County. By that time, it was far too late for the information to be useful in helping slow the potential spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, the CDC said it has no record of being contacted by Spirit.

Spirit did not respond to questions about how many passengers were on the flight.

The woman’s death was an extreme example of an in-flight coronavirus case, but it highlights the gaps in the nation’s efforts to protect citizens and improve the safety of air travel during the pandemic. The CDC and outside researchers both say limits on contact tracing and subsequent testing have made it hard to determine how air travel may be spreading the virus.

The federal government has largely been unwilling to set new rules for air travel, relying instead on recommendations and leadership from the industry. Only a few airlines offer preflight testing for the virus — mostly on select routes. The Department of Transportation recently rejected a petition from transportation unions to require masks on planes and public transportation.

Lisa Lee, an expert in infectious-disease epidemiology and ethics at Virginia Tech, said the government could be doing more.

“We’re still at the place where we have been since the beginning of this epidemic,” said Lee, a former CDC official. “Every airline and every airport has the responsibility to create their own covid-19 safety plan.”

“The primary tool we need is testing and very swift contact tracing,” Lee said.

The CDC typically coordinates with airlines and local officials to carry out contact tracing. But Caitlin Shockey, a CDC spokeswoman, said the agency has no record of a notification from Spirit or any indication that an investigation was launched.

Death investigators in New Mexico, where the woman was declared dead after the flight diverted to Albuquerque from Las Vegas, learned within two days that she had been positive for coronavirus and informed the local police and fire departments that responded to the scene, according to Dan Sosin, an epidemiologist at the state health department.

But Sosin said the health department itself received the test result directly from the lab, rather than from the Office of the Medical Investigator, and failed to conduct an investigation into the woman’s death. So it never learned that she had been on a plane and it didn’t initiate the tracing process with the CDC.

“The procedure we had should have picked it up,” Sosin said. “We’re reinforcing some of our written procedures about how this gets handled and revisiting with staff the importance of this follow up.”

The case illustrates how responsibility is shared between local, state and federal officials. Several federal agencies have a role in responding to the virus in the air travel system — including the Federal Aviation Administration, the CDC, the Transportation Security Administration and Customs and Border Protection — a factor that has complicated the government’s response.

In a statement, the Department of Transportation said it expects passengers to follow public health guidelines and that it stands ready to help wherever it can, even while it stresses that it is not responsible for public health.

“We will continue to apply our aviation expertise to help lead efforts with other Federal agencies, with industry, and with our international partners to address public health risk in the air transportation system, both internationally and here in the United States,” the department said.

The woman who died, a 38-year-old who had asthma and was obese, according to her autopsy, was on her way home from Las Vegas to Dallas. She boarded Spirit Flight 208 at McCarran International Airport on the evening of July 24, a Friday.

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London coronavirus: Two British Airways baggage handlers at Heathrow Airport test positive #COVID19 #nCoV2019 #coronavirus #London #UK #HeathrowAirport #BritishAirways

Coronavirus Breaking News

Public Health England has confirmed that two members of British Airways staff have tested positive for coronavirus .

The airline has confirmed to MyLondon that the staff members are baggage handlers, not cabin crew as has been reported on social media.

This news comes as the second person in the UK has died from the virus.

BA has confirmed that the baggage handlers, who are in self-isolation, work at Heathrow Airport.

British Airways said in a statement: “Public Health England has confirmed that two members of our staff, have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

“The colleagues have been isolated and are recovering at home.”

While there are now 116 cases in the country, London has the most confirmed cases of any region, with 25 patients confirmed as testing positive for the viral infection.

Meanwhile more than 18,000 tests have been carried out for coronavirus including many on those who have travelled recently to affected regions, such as China, South Korea and Italy.

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Coronavirus: Confirmed case in Hong Kong ‘had been working in the UK’ #coronavirus #COVID19 #emergency #UK #HongKong #CathayPacific

Coronavirus Alert

A man who has tested positive for coronavirus in Hong Kong, flew from London on Thursday after working in the UK, according to local reports.

The news site Caixin reported that a 35-year-old man who had been working in the UK flew from London to Hong Kong on 27 February and arrived at noon on 28 February.

He then took a ferry to Shekou, near Shenzhen and then drove to Shenzen, it reported. On Saturday he developed symptoms of a cough and fever and went to the hospital where he was confirmed positive for the virus, it said.

He is being treated in isolation in a hospital in Shenzhen. According to documents seen by Caixin, health authorities in Shenzhen notified provincial officials in Guangdong as well as health authorities in Hong Kong on Sunday. 1.

The public broadcaster RTHK reported that the Centre for Health Protection is appealing to anyone who travelled business class on Cathay Pacific flight CX250 from London to Hong Kong on Friday to get in touch. It said it had received notice from Guangdong authorities that a passenger on that flight was confirmed to have Covid-19.

Courtesy of Lily Kuo:

Coronavirus Heathrow Airport alert: United Airlines quarantined – ‘Passenger isolated’ #nCoV2019 #COVID19 #coronavirus #uk #wuhan #china #emergency #epidemic #London #HeathrowAirport #plane #UnitedAirlines #quarantine

Breaking News

PASSENGERS travelling from San Francisco to London’s Heathrow airport have been told they are not allowed to leave their aircraft as someone on board is suspected of having coronavirus.

The plane, believed to be United Airlines plane – flight 901, was held at Heathrow Airport this morning after landing at Terminal 2.

The captain then announced that someone on board was suspected to have the virus, formally known as COVID-19, and no one was allowed to leave the plane.

The person has been isolated at the back of the plane, according to passengers on board the aircraft.

One person wrote on Twitter: “United flight 901 from San Francisco being held on apron at Heathrow with a suspected case of coronavirus onboard. We’re being held on the plane as there are seven other flights with suspected cases on board.”

A second person said: Just landed at Heathrow T2 and captain has announced that someone on the plane has suspected #coronavirus. Noone allowed to leave the plane! waiting for doctor confirmation expected either way. Person isolated at the back of the plane.”

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Coronavirus latest: Fifth suspected case feared in UK as patient rushed to hospital #coronavirus #china #wuhan #uk

Coronavirus Alert

A MAN has been rushed to hospital in the UK after becoming the fifth patient suspected to have contracted the killer Chinese coronavirus.

The man, who is yet to be identified, displayed signs of the virus when he flew home to Belfast, Northern Ireland, from Wuhan, China. He has high temperature and was put into isolation initially by members of the public upon landing back in the UK. Four others in Ireland and Scotland have since shown signs of the deadly virus that has killed 17 people in China.

Northern Ireland’s Public Health Agency said in a statement that medics are “keeping abreast of the changing situation around the Wuhan novel Coronavirus, and is liaising with partners across the UK including Public Health England and our local Health Trusts on this issue”.

It comes as the deadly virus is rapidly sweeping across China, infecting more than 630, and has spread to other Asian countries and the US.

Three Chinese cities – Wuhan, Huanggang and Ezhou – have been put on lockdown and massive Lunar New Year celebrations in the capital have been cancelled as authorities dash to contain the mysterious pneumonia-like virus.

Panic has quickly set in among residents of Wuhan, the city where coronavirus was first detected, after authorities ordered a halt to public transport and gatherings.

Cases of the flu-like virus have been confirmed in Thailand, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Japan and the United States.

Today, Chinese state television reported the official number of those infected had reached 634.

British officials are monitoring inbound flights from China as a precautionary measure and Health Secretary Matt Hancock has reassured Britons.

He is consulting England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty.

Yesterday, the Department of Health said direct flights from Wuhan to Heathrow will be met in an isolated part of Terminal 4 where a health team will be waiting to screen for any symptoms.

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#BubonicPlague outbreak sees medics board #plane and #quarantine #passengers who flew from #Mongolian region

Bubonic Plague Alert

This is the alarming moment that paramedics in hazmat suits were forced to board a plane in Mongolia amid fears of a bubonic plague outbreak.

Emergency workers intercepted the domestic flight at the airport in the capital Ulaanbaatar, after a husband and wife died of the contagious disease in the region where the flight originated.

According to reports they had eaten contaminated meat from a marmot, a large squirrel.

Eleven passengers from the west of the country were held at the airport and sent immediately for hospital checks while others were examined at the airport.

A passenger watches from an aircraft seat as the paramedics go about their work
Alarming: Paramedics wearing hazmat suits board a flight in Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar

Paramedics in anti-contamination suits boarded the flight from provincial outposts Bayan, Ulgii and Khovd as soon as it landed.

Some 158 people have been put under intensive medical supervision in Bayan-Ulgii province after coming into contact directly or indirectly with the couple who died.

Some frontier check points with Russia are reported to have been closed leading to foreign tourists being stranded in Mongolia.

A man named Citizen T, aged 38, died on April 27 after hunting and eating marmot meat.

His pregnant wife, 37, died three days later, reported The Siberian Times, leaving their four children orphaned.

Top medic Dr N. Tsogbadrakh said the plague had ‘affected the man’s stomach’ after he ate the meat and gave it to his wife.

The bubonic plague can kill an adult in less than 24 hours if not treated in time, according to the World Health Organisation.

It is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, which is usually found in small mammals and their fleas.

The bacterium was linked to the Black Death which wiped out more than a third of Europe’s population in the 14th century and to subsequent plague outbreaks.

The disease is now treatable with antibiotics but hundreds of people have died of it around the world in recent years.

Since the 1990s, most human cases have occurred in Africa, according to world health bosses.

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