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Plan Needed to Prevent Infectious Disease Spread via Air Travel

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JAMA

Rita Rubin, MA

The United States lacks a comprehensive plan to prevent and contain the spread of diseases such as Ebola through air travel, a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report concludes.

“US airports and airlines are not required to have individual preparedness plans, and no federal agency tracks which airports and airlines have them,” stated the report released by Rep Rick Larsen (D, Wash) (http://1.usa.gov/1OAVK63).

The Chicago Convention, an international aviation treaty signed by the United States, requires member countries to develop a national aviation preparedness plan for communicable disease outbreaks, according to the GAO. While the Department of Transportation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that parts of a national plan already exist, the Federal Aviation Administration has reported that individual airport plans are not aimed at handling an epidemic, the GAO said.

“In a world where nearly 3 billion people board planes each year, the US aviation system must have a clear plan of action to handle infectious disease crises,” Larsen, ranking member of the aviation subcommittee, said in a statement (http://1.usa.gov/1P8Hoso).

Banning air travel, as some called for during the Ebola outbreak in 2015, “is not a feasible or effective solution to an epidemic,” Larsen added.

 read more at JAMA

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