"Hub-And-Spoke" System May Facilitate Spread Of Illnesses
A mumps outbreak
currently sweeping across the Midwest may have been inadvertently
spread by two airline passengers traveling on a series of
connecting flights, Iowa health officials said Wednesday -- which
may signify the potential risk of spreading other diseases, such as
bird flu, across the skies.
"These people may have exposed other people on those planes or
in these airports," said Kevin Teale, a spokesman for the Iowa
Department of Public Health.
To date, 515 cases of the mumps have been reported across Iowa,
with 43 cases in neighboring Nebraska, 33 in Illinois and four each
in Missouri, Wisconsin, and Illinois. One case has also been
reported in Minnesota. It is the first such epidemic in 20
In response to the spread of mumps, the Center for Disease
Control (CDC) put out an advisory about two Iowa air travelers who
may have spread the disease to other states. "Infectious diseases
can travel easily on planes and other modes of transportation,"
said Dr. Jane Seward, acting deputy director of the CDC’s
viral diseases division, to the Associated Press.
One of those passengers, Terry Poe Buschkamp, came forward
earlier this month, acknowledging to the press she had visited the
Dominican Republic earlier this year, where she thinks she may have
caught the bug. Buschkamp, executive director of a downtown
development organization in Waterloo, IA also visited Washington DC
at the end of March.
Buschkamp, 51, flew from Waterloo on March 26 on a Mesaba
Airlines flight to Minneapolis, and then caught a Northwest
Airlines to Detroit. She then flew to Washington, DC's Reagan
She essentially mirrored that path on her trip home to Waterloo
on March 29, Buschkamp said, and after she got back home
she developed a scratchy throat. When she heard about the mumps
outbreak, she went to her doctor.
Six days later, Buschkamp's doctor confirmed she did indeed
have the mumps. During those six days, Buschkamp said she
interacted with several other people at church and numerous work
events, including an April 1 pub crawl with approximately 370 other
people, according to the AP.
The second person suspecting of spreading the disease is
identified only as a young man returning from vacation in Arizona
on April 1, Teale said. The man flew American Airlines from Tucson
to Dallas, TX, then on to Fayetteville, AR, St. Louis, MO and
finally to Cedar Rapids, IA.
The two cases show the
potential risks of most domestic airlines' "hub-and-spoke" system,
Teale said. "It’s hard to get anywhere (from Iowa) without
connecting," he said about the two cases -- and nine total flights
Mumps is caused by a virus that is spread by coughing and
sneezing. It is rarely fatal, with the most common symptoms being
fever, headache and swollen salivary glands under the jaw. The
illness can lead to more severe problems, however -- such as
hearing loss, meningitis and fertility-diminishing swollen
testicles, according to the CDC.
A two-dose mumps vaccine is recommended for all children, and is
considered highly -- but not completely --effective against the