Valley-Bound US Airways Plane Experiences Tuberculosis Scare

By  Al Macias
December 02, 2013

County health officials say it could take up to a week to find out if an airline passenger has tuberculosis. The man was on a flight from Austin to Phoenix on Saturday when Texas health authorities notified federal officials that a passenger on the flight might have TB. Local officials said the risk of infection is very low.


When the plane landed, the suspect passenger was escorted off, and passengers were told they might have been exposed to tuberculosis. Now, county health officials said that is unlikely. According to local authorities, the Centers for Disease Control protocol says if passengers were exposed to an active TB case, they would they be contacted only if the flight lasted more than 8 hours.

The two and a half hour flight from Austin does not meet that threshold according to Dr. Rebecca Suneneshine with Maricopa County Health.

"So there would not be an attempt to reach out to the passengers on the plane. I can further assure people who flew on the plane that this individual was not coughing and that means there is a much lower likelihood that if he does have active TB that he would have passed it onto others," Suneneshine said.

She said tuberculosis is relatively rare in the United States and most cases in Maricopa County involve people who have been outside the country or have come in contact with someone who has traveled outside the United States.