Phoenix Flight with Tuberculosis Scare: Why Is It So Dangerous?

Phoenix Sky Harbor Tuberculosis ScareUnsuspecting passengers of a US Airways flight from Texas to Arizona were given the shock of a lifetime when told that they had been exposed to the potentially deadly illness known as tuberculosis (TB).  Just minutes from deplaning, passengers witnessed a man being removed from the airplane by paramedics.  Minutes later, firefighters announced the reason why.

 

What Is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease, known as TB for short.  It’s caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis.  It usually impacts your lungs and indeed, that’s how most people know of the disease.  However, it can also affect organs, the circulatory system and lymphatic system, amongst others.

During its peak, it was often referred to as “consumption”.  This is due to the disease’s devastating capabilities of ‘consuming’ the body from within.  Not exactly the most pleasant way to go, is it?

 

Phoenix Flight with Tuberculosis Scare: Why Is It So Dangerous?

After the patient was given a ‘no fly’ status, the situation heightened very quickly.  Once US Airways Express Flight 2836 landed, it was immediately taxied to a separate section of the tarmac.

Sky Harbor Airport staff contacted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and first responders arrived at the scene soon after.  The man in question was given a medical mask and was quickly escorted off the plane.

So why did paramedics deal in such a cautious manner?  Was it necessary to quarantine the aircraft while dealing with the situation, or was this an exaggerated measure?

Even though tuberculosis is not as common as it once was, it’s still extremely contagious and potentially deadly to those exposed. It was once the leading cause of death in the United States and one of the main reasons is the fact that it’s spread through the air.  It also takes just a few particles to become infected, so it’s a very contagious disease.

It’s still one of the major killers in the third world, with many African and Asian countries still feeling its destructive effects.  The disease is the cause of around 2 million deaths per year.

It’s no surprise that those on the flight were more than a little jaded after the experience. However, it’s not an absolute guarantee that exposure will lead to infection.  If you have a strong immune system, there is every chance that your body will naturally fight off the disease.

Considering the role of the immune system in the body’s ability to remain healthy, tuberculosis often affects AIDS and HIV patients.  The elderly or those suffering from malnutrition are also particularly vulnerable.

 

What Are the Symptoms?

The symptoms can start off as quite light, with a bad cough and chest pain being the initial warning signs.  Once the disease develops, suffers will start coughing up blood, experiencing severe fever and chills.  Weight loss and weakness are also common symptoms. Symptoms become more severe over time.

However, most people don’t show any signs right after infection.  That’s why all passengers on the Phoenix flight with the tuberculosis scare were told to take tests in three months time. Only then can you get the proper ‘all clear’ from your doctor.

Dr. Steven Lipsky

Steven J. Lipsky MD, FACEP has been a Board Certified Emergency Physician in Arizona for the last 41 years, and a resident of the Town of Paradise Valley for the last 40 years. He received his Doctor of Medicine degree from New York University School of Medicine and did post-graduate training in Family Practice at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix before going into the full-time practice of Emergency Medicine in 1975. Dr. Lipsky has worked in every type of Emergency Department in Arizona – from inner city and rural, small volume and large, public and private hospitals, teaching and nonteaching hospitals. He has taught at the Midwestern University Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine – Division of Clinical Education, as well as in Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine Arizona. He has received the highest number of patient satisfaction letters in his group at multiple facilities and has been recognized at Paradise Valley Hospital for his outstanding performance. A past president of the Arizona College of Emergency Physicians (representing over 800 Emergency Physicians in our state) along with many other positions in the organization, Dr. Lipsky was also one of six Councillors representing Arizona to the National Council of the American College of Emergency Physicians. Dr. Lipsky built, owned, and was the Medical Director for the first 24hr free-standing Emergicenter and Advanced Life Support Ambulance Service in Jamaica. In conjunction with USAID, Cornell Medical Center’s School of Public Health, the Ministry of Health and Environmental Control of Jamaica, and the U.S. Peace Corps, he participated in a successful program to stem infant mortality in rural areas.

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