DENVER - A Dallas nurse who has Ebola may have had symptoms while on a public flight from Cleveland to Dallas.
That startling development was announced Wednesday night from Frontier Airlines CEO Dave Siegel who sent the following message to airline employees:
"At 1:55 p.m. MDT (Wednesday) Frontier was notified by the CDC that the passenger may have been symptomatic earlier than initially suspected; including the possibility of possessing symptoms while onboard the flight.
"In light of the new information, Frontier determines that the aircraft will remain out of service and ferries it back to Denver from Cleveland without customers. The flight departs at 6:20 p.m. EDT and arrives in Denver at 7:20 p.m. MDT. In an abundance of caution, it is determined that the aircraft will receive a fourth cleaning since the infected customer was onboard. Though not required, this cleaning will consist of the removal of seat covers and carpets in the immediate vicinity of the passenger seat. The airline will also change the environmental filters onboard.
"NOTE: These extraordinary actions went beyond CDC recommendations. These steps were taken out of concern for the safety of our customers and employees. Steps such as removing the aircraft from service, removing aircraft seat covers and carpet and replacing environmental filters as well as placing the crew on paid leave were not requested nor mandated by the CDC. Frontier expects that the aircraft will return to service in a few days."
The plane, which had been grounded in Cleveland, flew empty to Denver International Airport to undergo the additional decontamination procedures.
The plane carried Ebola patient Amber Vinson from Cleveland to Dallas and then made a return trip from Dallas to Cleveland before it was taken out of service.
Vinson helped in the treatment of Thomas Eric Duncan, an Ebola patient who died in Dallas last week at a Dallas hospital. Vinson is the second nurse from the hospital diagnosed with Ebola.
CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said the only symptom the nurse was showing on the flight was a fever.
"The patient was not showing any other symptoms while on board the plane – no vomiting or diarrhea," he said Wednesday night.
After Vinson flew from Cleveland to Dallas, the same Frontier Airlines plane made five additional trips:
Frontier Flight 2042 departed to Dallas on Oct. 14 at 8:11 a.m. CDT and arrived in Cleveland at 11:14 a.m. EDT
Frontier Flight 1104 departed Cleveland on Oct. 14 at 12:24 p.m. EDT and arrived in Fort Lauderdale at 3 p.m. EDT
Frontier Flight 1105 departed Fort Lauderdale on Oct. 14 at 4:02 p.m. EDT and arrived in Cleveland at 6:16 p.m. EDT
Frontier Flight 1101 departed Cleveland on Oct. 14 7:24 p.m. EDT and arrived in Atlanta at 9:03 p.m. EDT
Frontier Flight 1100 departed Atlanta on Oct. 14 at 10:12 p.m. EDT and arrived in Cleveland at 11:19 p.m. EDT
Frontier jet lands in Denver Wednesday afternoon and is taken to a Frontier maintenance hanger for further decontamination cleanup procedures.
Siegel ended his letter to Frontier employees by saying, "We take today’s events seriously as your safety and that of our customers is always at the forefront of everything we do. Since we were notified by the CDC, we’ve proactively placed six crew members (two pilots; four flight attendants) on paid leave for 21 days out of an abundance of caution as the safety and security of our employees is our number one priority. This was over and above CDC guidance that stated that our flight crews were safe to fly."
Customers who may have traveled on the Frontier flights the nurse was on should contact CDC at 1-800-CDC-INFO.
FlightAware shows the plane is scheduled for flights Thursday from Atlanta to Washington Dulles and then on to Chicago.