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Nides disagreed. While he doesn’t know whether the man appeared ill before he boarded, he said a flight attendant had to hold the passenger by the shoulder to guide him to his seat. The man also leaned forward against the seat back in front of him, Nides recalled, and flight attendants repeatedly checked on him in flight. When he dropped a piece of paper, he was too weak to pick it up, Nides said.
As a frequent business traveler who sells reading glasses, Nides has had some odd experiences on airplanes. He appeared in news coverage in 2009 after being stuck on a Sun Country plane that sat on the tarmac in New York for hours instead of returning to its gate. He said he’s grateful this episode didn’t involve a more lethal virus that could spread through the air.
“This is just a warning,” he said.
In west Africa, 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lassa infections each year; others carry the virus without symptoms. The mortality rate from known infections is 1 percent to 2 percent, but health officials believe it would be lower in the U.S. due to better medical care.
In the days after the March 31 flight, the CDC reached out to people who came in close contact with the infected man and asked them to monitor their health and body temperatures.
Nides told them he didn’t have thermometers at his Mendota Heights home. The next day, he said, a state epidemic intelligence officer hand-delivered two of them.
Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744