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Passengers may have been exposed to TB on Phoenix flight

PHOENIX — Passengers on a flight that landed at Sky Harbor over the weekend were startled to learn that they may have been exposed to tuberculosis.

The US Airways Express flight from Austin, Texas on Saturday wasn’t allowed to reach the gate and a flight attendant took aside a passenger, gave him a mask and whisked him off the plane. Paramedics boarded shortly after that.

Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine with the Maricopa County Department of Public Health said the Center for Disease Control notified her agency that the individual was on the flight.

A woman on the plane told local TV news that it was suggested that anyone on the plane get a TB shot. There were about 70 people on the plane.

The TSA told flight officials that a passenger had been put on the “no-fly” list for a medical condition, but did not confirm TB.

Maricopa County health officials said the short exposure time made it unlikely the highly infectious disease had spread.

“The only time people are actively contacted for being exposed to tuberculosis on a plane is when they’re on the plane with someone for more than eight hours,” Sunenshine said.

The person removed from the airplane was not actively coughing, which also lessens the risk of infection. Sunenshine said TB spreads when an infected patient coughs near others.

“The chances of getting tuberculosis, unless somebody coughs directly on you, are very low,” she said.

The man taken off the plane has been tested but results could take almost a week.

KTAR’s Holliday Moore contributed to this report.