A major concern during all peak travel times is the spread of infectious disease. The Ebola scare is conjuring up images of mass infection reminiscent of scenes in films 28 Days Later or, more recently, World War Z. But according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), your risk on the airplane of catching, for example, the flu, is very low as exposure would likely not extend beyond a two row circumference.
However, the CDC does maintain that airplane travel does carry the ability to deliver infectious disease to countries, but the likelihood of catching a disease directly from a fellow passenger is low. You will not simply catch an illness from sitting in the middle seat.
In terms of the Ebola outbreak, the lack of airborne transmissibility limits the extent to which the virus could put plane passengers in danger. However, this does not mean the virus is not a threat and American airports are not taking any chances. Airports in the effected African nations are screening passengers for symptoms prior to boarding and restricting those who display any signs of infection from travel. The United States has set up quarantine stations at international airports as a front line defense against the disease.
While high security measures are recommended in the case that Ebola virus does travel to the US, Dr. David R. Schlim, president of the International Social of Travel Medicine does not think the scare is a high enough risk to change your travel plans.
I can’t think of any example of one person got on a plane and 30 people got off sick.”
Furthermore, as noted by an article in Time magazine- infectious diseases such as measles and polio are more contagious and carry a higher risk than Ebola.
The risk there isn’t from a third-world passenger arriving from Africa. It’s more likely a 7-year American kid who hasn’t been vaccinated.
Read more here- “Getting Sick From Planes is Way Less Likely Than you Think,” (Bill Saporito, Time)