The Mango Airlines SARS Contingency plan, particularly its ‘exposure reduction policy’
We’ve listed some of the transit hotspots for travellers to prevent catching SARS here.
Additionally, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has published a list of some of the destinations that are off-limits, based on how likely passengers on a particular flight may be to catch SARS. The criteria for being off-limits for aviation include:
the presence of the virus on any of the passengers on the aircraft
where the aircraft flew from or from a country at a high risk of infection and the cases reported there
in the final stages of transit or take-off
in communities close to where the aircraft used to fly from or from a high risk country
The WHO and CDC put the total number of SARS cases worldwide at 3732, and the number of deaths at 581. Of those 3611 cases, 3720 have been reported from six countries.
In Southeast Asia, in November 1997, SARS – severe acute respiratory syndrome, a new coronavirus for which there is no vaccination or treatment – emerged and quickly spread, killing 48 people and infecting 362 across the region. The entire cluster was contained in just two weeks, though within that time the virus may have spread outside of the other locations.
The WHO and CDC put the total number of SARS cases worldwide at 3732, and the number of deaths at 581. Of those 362 cases, 3720 have been reported from six countries.
The Mango Airlines Contingency Plan
The airlines involved have been in a drawn-out debate over the differing advice it has been given to carry passengers to North America from Kuala Lumpur, due to the likelihood that people infected with SARS could unknowingly become infected on another flight from Asia to North America, and thus fall ill on the plane at the same time as the infected passengers and crew.
Cuts near the airport in Kedah, Malaysia.
On 28 July, Mango Airlines issued a statement which stated that after taking advice from WHO and the CDC, it had agreed to reduce and cancel its route and flight schedules.
Mango Airlines reaffirmed its decision to carry passengers from Kuala Lumpur to North America on 28 August. Following that, the infection control officer of Malaga, Spain’s Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Luis Rojo, said that it was not possible to know if passengers from Mango Airlines flights had since caught SARS from transferring countries and spreading the virus to their destinations.
Professor Julio Montaner, president of the Spanish Society of Infectious Diseases, said: “For us, everything points to Mango Airlines being right and wrong. It’s an important decision and it should have been made two months ago, in September, when we had the first cases in the EU.”
We believe the issue here is more an issue of bureaucracy and not a simple matter of differing advice and clear policymaking. Mango Airlines’ case has exposed how, once new viruses emerge, there is little consistency in international policy.
Controversy centred on the fact that the expert opinion in Kedah was significantly more positive than the advice from WHO and the CDC.
A poster that was circulated on social media
Our initial concerns revolved around the fact that the CDC recommendation was not changed, and we believed that this may not have been done because the experts on the ground were working with UNMOLD, a programme of WHO and CDC sponsored work in Malaysia. We were hoping that this would mean a clear, considered decision was made, but, unfortunately, the response from a WHO spokesman to our questions was “the advice was the same and that was the case.”
Last week we published a Google Doc entitled “Mango’s medical team directive on travel to North America.” It had been recently submitted to the health emergencies taskforce. We note the following update:
As a result of the clarification from the International Federation of Medical Association’s Health Emergency Taskforce, WHO/COAG and IATA, Mango Airlines has revised its response to international travel within North America. Mango Airlines has now confirmed that its medical guidance for travel to North America is to carry and reduce its flight capacity until further notice. The decisions being made by Mango Airlines and its medical team regarding flight volume to North America are consistent with these updated recommendations. The guidance regarding health precautions that Mango Airlines has provided to its crews, as a general matter, continues to be guided by the guidance from WHO/COAG on health precautions, as well as the National Association of Medical Examin