Dr. Marcellus Grace, R.Ph., Ph.D.
October 21, 2013
Potential Exposure to Typhoid Fever on American Airlines Flight from Miami to New Orleans
On October 15, 2012, an American Airlines flight from Miami to New Orleans was held for two hours on the tarmac at Louis Armstrong International Airport after a passenger suggested to the flight crew that she might have been exposed to typhoid fever. In my analysis and critique of this event, I will discuss the typhoid fever, its symptoms and effects, the response from both the Louis Armstrong International Airport emergency response personnel and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the “What if?” ...view middle of the document...
(CDC) The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all United States citizens who regularly travel to less industrialized areas of the world receive the Typhoid Fever vaccination. This vaccination will not prevent all cases of the infection and requires a booster every five years. (CDC) Typhoid fever is treated with antibiotics. Resistance to multiple antibiotics is increasing among Salmonella that cause typhoid fever. Reduced susceptibility to fluoroquinolones (e.g., ciprofloxacin) and the emergence of multidrug-resistance has complicated treatment of infections, especially those acquired in South Asia. Antibiotic susceptibility testing may help guide appropriate therapy. Choices for antibiotic therapy include fluoroquinolones (for susceptible infections), ceftriaxone, and azithromycin. Persons who do not get treatment may continue to have fever for weeks or months, and as many as 20% may die from complications of the infection. (CDC)
The response to this particular medical crisis was adequate to the situation and in the public’s eyes, a non-event. There were actually very few stories covering this situation because the response was seamless and orderly. Typically, in emergency or crisis-type situations, how smooth the response is can be seen via how much publicity it receives. A higher profile situation or one with disorganized response and poor leadership and management will tend to be covered more by media outlets than the ones that are handled with forceful, decisive, and appropriate action and response. This is due, in large part, to the public’s need for mayhem and drama. They want to watch a crisis via television and tell themselves that it could never happen to them or anyone they love. They love to watch the disorder unfold before their eyes while they are comfortably sitting on the couch in their secure home. It gives people a sense of security knowing that they are safe and sound while others are out dealing with the dramatic event as it is occurring. People tend to distance themselves from a catastrophic event that has occurred but will overwhelmingly want to watch what happens and how those “other” people handle the stressful situations unfolding before their eyes. I will, therefore, critique the event as it occurred, but, also discuss what could have happened had this been an actual outbreak of typhoid fever. In this particular case involving a woman on an American Airlines flight displaying flu-like symptoms and informing the flight crew that she could have been exposed to typhoid fever, the first action was the flight crew informing emergency personnel on the ground at Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans. The emergency personnel immediately called the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to report the potential medical emergency. The flight landed on schedule, and, following taxiing from the runway to a secure location, CDC personnel boarded the flight to retrieve blood...