“Red Spots” among Flight Attendants
This bright yellow life vest and oxygen mask are souvenirs from the “Red Spots” Epi-Aid.
In the first three months of 1980, CDC’s then Bureau of Epidemiology and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health investigated episodes of red spots appearing on the skin of flight attendants during various Eastern Airlines flights. Airline personnel had investigated the ventilation systems, cleaning materials and procedures, concluding all were normal. Chemical tests on clinical specimens for the presence of blood were negative.
Bacteriological tests were negative. Review of 132 cases occurring in January and February:
- 96% occurred on flights between New York and Miami.
- 90% occurred on a single type of aircraft.
- 91 flight attendants had been affected.
Observations of standard work practices and procedures of flight attendants revealed that the red spots were caused by red ink flaking off the life vests. The vests used for demonstrations were not actually functional and were labelled “Demo Only” with ink containing a litholrubine chrome molybdate orange pigment. When the vests were demonstrated, the red ink areas came into close contact with the face, necks, and hands of the demonstrators. Although some reports mentioned burning, nausea, and headache in association with spots, most reports involved only the occurrence of bright red spots that could be wiped or washed off. When the implicated vests were removed from all Eastern Airlines planes, the epidemic ended.
Take a closer look:
- Learn about what Epidemic Intelligence Service officers do when faced with “outbreaks” like the “Red Spots” Epi-Aid.
- Read about the National Outbreak Reporting System and search for up-to-date outbreak information across the U.S.
- Looking for more information about infectious disease outbreaks across the globe? Check out CDC’s frequently-updated current outbreak list.
From the source:
- Hear from CDC EIS officer Alice Wang about her deployment to Flint, Michigan to assist with the Flint water crisis.
- Meet Alaine Knipes, a CDC EIS officer that helped with cholera and Ebola investigations.
- Meet Alexis Peterson, a CDC EIS officer that has helped with the Zika response, as well as investigations of opioid overdose and traumatic brain injury.
- Peruse the CDC Field Epidemiology Manual and guidelines EIS officers use when conducting a field investigation.
Give it a try:
- Become a disease detective at home with this interactive game, Solve the Outbreak!
- Looking to learn the basics of epidemiology at home? Check out these free e-learning courses.
- Ready to take your knowledge to the next level? Learn how to use research, engineering, and communication strategies to respond to outbreak scenarios like a disease detective in these CDC Science Ambassador activities, or tell your favorite science teacher about these!
- Learn more about the CDC Museum Disease Detective Camp.
- Interested in joining the next class of the Epidemic Intelligence Service? Find more information about how to apply.