PHOENIX (Reuters) - A man removed from a US Airways Express flight in Phoenix over the weekend because he was suspected of having tuberculosis has tested negative for the contagious disease, health officials said on Tuesday.
The unidentified man was removed from a flight from Austin, Texas, on Saturday during the busy Thanksgiving holiday weekend, after an alert from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“All of our preliminary tests have come back negative, and after discussions with the CDC it was decided that this man should be allowed to fly,” Jeanene Fowler, spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Department of Public Health told Reuters by telephone.
The health scare began after the CDC contacted the Transportation Security Administration when the flight was already in the air, informing them that the passenger was on a “do not board” list. The list is intended to prevent people who are contagious from boarding commercial aircraft.
Firefighters and paramedics met the flight - with 70 passengers and four crew members on board - shortly after it landed in Phoenix, and removed the man.
Some passengers reported that a firefighter announced over the intercom that everyone on board had been exposed to tuberculosis and should see their doctors immediately, according to news reports.
But Arizona public health officials said passengers would not be deemed at significant risk even if they had been exposed to someone with active tuberculosis during a flight of fewer than eight hours duration.
Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director for disease control at the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, said the flight was only four hours long, and noted the passenger was not coughing, which would have further reduced the likelihood of any possible contagion.
Sunenshine said passengers did not need to seek testing for the disease.
Fowler said she did not know why the passenger, who she believed had continued his journey by air, was placed on the CDC’s do not board list. A call to the CDC was not immediately returned on Tuesday.
Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Chris Reese