December 3rd, 2013
10:40 AM ET

Tuberculosis Scare Aboard Phoenix Bound Flight

Passengers aboard US Airways Flight 2846 were waiting on the tarmac at Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport when their pilot came on the intercom.

"We've been notified about a health emergency aboard the aircraft," passenger Dean Davidson heard.

A few minutes later, Davidson saw a flight attendant walk toward another passenger sitting a few rows ahead of him. The flight attendant handed the slender middle-aged man a medical mask.

Emergency personnel boarded the plane a short time later and removed the man, Davidson said. A firefighter then came on the intercom and announced that the passenger had active tuberculosis and was contagious and that other passengers on the flight had been exposed. He advised them to contact their physicians immediately, Davidson said.

“By the time that passenger's doctor notified authorities that he might have TB and by the time those health authorities notified the TSA, the passenger was already on an airplane,” reports CNN’s Casey Wian.

Arizona health officials are not recommending passengers on the plane seek medical care because their risk of being infected with tuberculosis is "very, very low," said Dr. Rebecca Sunshine, disease control director for Maricopa County Public Health.

"To put this in perspective... We're much more concerned that the passengers on this flight contracted influenza than that they contracted TB," she said.

The US Airways flight took off from Austin, Texas, on Friday, according to airline spokesman Bill McGlashen. It landed in Phoenix approximately two hours later on a layover before it was scheduled to fly to Los Angeles. There was no warning or flag on the passenger's record when he was going through security or when he boarded the plane, McGlashen said.

After the plane took off, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notified the Transportation Security Administration of a possible risk. The TSA then notified US Airways, McGlashen said.

The passenger in question has not been confirmed to have an infectious disease, CDC spokeswoman Karen Hunter said Sunday. "And even if a passenger had infectious TB, the duration of the flight was so short that there would likely be no risk of exposure to other passengers."

Another spokesperson for the CDC said Monday the government organization is still waiting on test results for the passenger, a U.S. citizen who was traveling internationally.

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