The swine flu puts airline staff in a tough position. Enforcing vague policies about sick travelers without a medical degree is not a way to make friends and get good publicity.
Enter Mitra Mostoufi, who was thrown off a United Airlines flight in Tampa because the crew thought she might have swine flu, as Tamba Bay Online reports. She said she just had an upset stomach from medication she takes for a non-contagious disorder.
Now, there must be cases where people clearly shouldn’t get on public transportation. High fever and uncontrolled vomiting come to mind. But where to draw the line? Some people can be visibly ill, with chronic diseases or from cancer therapy, without posing any risk of infection.
And, dare I say it, you can only mitigate the danger of infection so far. Viruses can be contagious before anyone shows symptoms, and it’s simply not possible to eliminate the risk. To some extent, we just need to suck it up, wash our hands and hope for the best. People who can’t handle the idea that they’re probably going to be exposed to the flu virus at some point need to stay home and stay off the plane.
Meanwhile, the airlines and the airports might try to get together with some kind of coherent policy about denying boarding to people who appear ill. How about some standard criteria, at least?