So, as an exercise, let's think of a real-world passenger situation - my own:
I am away from home, and am supposed to fly back in the next week to ten days. I have not yet bought my ticket, due to shifting work events. My preferred itinerary is LAX
-LFT, on an American 763 and an Embraer RJ145. Here's the thinking process:
1. If the most common incubation period is 21 days - Mr. Duncan supposedly was not symptomatic when he flew in. So let's be generous and discount the plane and those around him as posing any danger. Ms. Vinson, however, flying CLE
with a 99.5F temperature, definitely was ill with Ebola. It's possible she also was during her earlier DFY-CLE
leg, but again, let's be generous, and discount that earlier leg.
2. The aircraft on the second leg, N220FR, has been thoroughly cleaned, and also supposedly has not yet reentered service, as Frontier says they want clearer CDC guidance on clearing it for use.
3. Ms. Vinson flew on Oct. 13. Let's not be generous, and assume that Ms. Vinson sneezed without covering her face, close enough that at least on passenger beside her or in front of her breathed in a small quantity of virus. Let's also give the virus the benefit of the doubt of some degree of aerosol transmissibility through a forceful, uncovered sneeze, though not magical.
4. Let's assume the worst-case scenario that Ms. Vinson did manage to transmit the virus to at least one other person during her visit to Cleveland or on the plane, and that at least one person is now gestating the virus. Let's also assume, for caution's sake, that one of the several contemporaneous reports of people sick on aircraft worldwide does end up being an Ebola situation.
5. Timeline for the Vinson vector of the Duncan virus: 21 days from October 13 is November 3 (for 85-90% of cases). It would seem to me that we face a window of time until about the first week of November in which we truly do not know whether Ms. Vinson managed to spread the virus, until/if others start showing symptoms.
6. Take it back to my situation - do I fly, and what precautions do I take? What will be my realistic, thoughtful approach to getting back home?
7. If I fly before the first week of November, do I know whether someone sneezing on my flight has Ebola? No, I don't. After about the first week of November, the situation seems likely to clarify, for better or for worse.
8. Full caution = do not fly - drive back cross-country. No caution = fly as usual.
9. Middle ground = go ahead and fly during this unknown period until the first week of November, wear disposable gloves during my transfer at DFW
, using restroom, etc., and do not touch my face. Wear disposable gloves on the plane, or be very careful about what I touch and when I wash my hands. Do not wear an N95 mask on the plane, but have one close at hand, already preformed to my face, ready to hold my breath and put it on immediately if someone sneezes in close proximity, until the sneeze has time to land/dissipate.
That's what I'll do.