A Texas nurse who traveled through Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport and spent time in the Akron area tested positive for the Ebola virus Tuesday night.
According to a press release from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Amber Joy Vinson traveled to Dallas/Fort Worth on Oct. 13, the day before she reported her symptoms.
A statement from Frontier Airlines, stated that the flight landed on Oct. 13 in Dallas/Fort Worth at 8:16 p.m. local time and remained there overnight. The aircraft was then thoroughly cleaned per CDC guidelines before returning to service the next day.
The plane was also cleaned again in Cleveland the evening of Oct. 14.
Frontier Airlines states that Vinson exhibited no symptoms while on flight 1143, according to the crew.
The airline also removed the plane from service once they were notified of the situation, and will be working closely with the CDC to identify and contact customers who were on flight 1143.
Terry O’Sullivan, an associate professor at The University of Akron and public health expert who specializes in global infectious disease response and prevention says that it is unlikely the disease will affect anyone on campus.
“I’d say it’s very low probability,” said O’Sullivan. “You can never say zero obviously, but we don’t even know if the nurse from Dallas was contagious when she was here.”
“She turned up in the hospital in Dallas with a low-grade fever, and was diagnosed there, but she may indeed not have been contagious while she was in Summit County, or even on the plane returning home.”
“It’s definitely one of those things where it is entirely possible she did not infect anyone while she was in this region,” said O’Sullivan.
O’Sullivan stressed that the lack of any symptoms while Vinson was in the Akron area means that it is highly unlikely there will be any outbreak of Ebola.
“The most important thing to emphasize is that people are not contagious when they don’t have symptoms,” O’Sullivan continued. “Even then, in the early stages, when they do have symptoms they are still not that contagious.”
“[Those exposed to Ebola] are most contagious, the sicker they get,” said O’Sullivan. “We may get lucky and it may turn out that she was not symptomatic and was not
contagious the entire time that she was here,” said O’Sullivan.
According to O’Sullivan, the first thing public health officials will do is contact anyone who may have been exposed, including the 132 passengers on flight 1143. The people she visited while in the Akron area will also be contacted and interviewed to determine if she was symptomatic during her stay.
While she was in Ohio, Vinson visited family near Akron from Oct. 10 to Oct. 13, according to the Cleveland Department of Public Health. NBC Dallas reported that Vinson had returned to Ohio to prepare for her upcoming wedding and to visit her mother and fiancé.
To dispel rumors that Vinson had visited Kent State while in Ohio, Dr. Angela DeJulius, Kent State’s director of University Health Services, stated that Vinson stayed with her family at their home in Summit County and did not visit Kent’s campus.
Those who came in closest contact with the patient will be advised to monitor their health and pay attention to any signs of illness.
“The incubation period can be as little as two days, but it is usually an average of eight to 10 days, so there is a low probability that anybody, if they were infected, would even be contagious themselves at this stage,” said O’Sullivan of those who came in contact with the woman.
The CDC is asking all 132 passengers from Frontier Airlines flight 1143 to contact them with any information at 1(800)CDC-INFO, or 1(800)232-4636.