Interim Guidance for Decontamination and Waste Disposal in a Commercial Passenger Aircraft Carrying a Traveler with Ebola Disease or Other Viral Hemorrhagic Fever (VHF)

This guidance addresses the event of a commercial passenger aircraft traveler exhibiting symptoms consistent with Ebola disease or another viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF, e.g., Marburg virus disease, Lassa fever, Rift Valley fever, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever). The guidance only applies to travelers with identified exposures or laboratory-confirmed infection. To date, there is no documented evidence of hemorrhagic fever viruses being transmitted on an aircraft1.

What aircraft this applies to: This guidance applies to commercial passenger aircraft located in the United States.

Who this is for: Airlines and contract companies whose staff may clean, disinfect, or remove contaminated waste from an aircraft.

How to use: Use these recommendations 1) to guide personnel in cleaning, disinfection, and waste disposal procedures after a flight, 2) to select effective disinfectants, and 3) as a reference for relevant federal regulations.

Disclaimer: This guidance does not relieve any person of the obligation to comply with all applicable Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations for issues related to the aircraft and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations for those workers conducting the decontamination of the aircraft or handling and disposing waste.

Related guidance:

Routine practices regardless of the presence of a sick traveler

Airlines should direct the airline personnel and/or designated cleaning crew to clean the passenger aircraft using airline-specified detergents and disinfectants and/or refer to the Guide to Hygiene and Sanitation in Aviation [PDF – 71 pages] developed by the World Health Organization (WHO).  As certain detergents or disinfectants may be incompatible with aircraft components, any detergent or disinfectant used on board an aircraft should be approved by the aircraft manufacturer.

Recommendations for cleaning and disinfection of the aircraft when a traveler exhibits symptoms consistent with a VHF

The approach for cleaning and disinfecting the aircraft depends on the symptoms of the ill traveler at the time they were on the passenger aircraft. The following are approaches for an ill traveler who was symptomatic during a flight and is suspected of having a VHF but does not yet have a laboratory-confirmed diagnosis.

    1. If the ill traveler had NO gastrointestinal (vomiting or diarrhea) or hemorrhagic (bleeding) symptoms while on the aircraft, the person should not have contaminated their environment. Routine cleaning and laundering can be conducted by airline personnel or designated cleaning crew/environmental services employees. These recommendations apply even if a VHF is confirmed by laboratory testing after the flight.
    2. If the ill traveler had gastrointestinal (vomiting or diarrhea) or hemorrhagic (bleeding) symptoms while on the aircraft, the aircraft should be taken out of service immediately. The aircraft can be held until the laboratory-confirmed diagnosis has been obtained. If a VHF is confirmed, follow the cleaning and disinfection process outlined below. The airline may also choose to assume the ill traveler is infected and proceed to the cleaning and disinfecting process outlined below without waiting for laboratory confirmation. If a VHF has been ruled out, the aircraft can be cleaned using conventional protocols.

Recommendations for cleaning and disinfection of the aircraft when a VHF is confirmed and traveler had gastrointestinal or hemorrhagic symptoms at the time they were on the aircraft

Additional Considerations

  • If a traveler is confirmed to have a VHF and had gastrointestinal or hemorrhagic symptoms at the time they were on the aircraft, the airline may choose to arrange for a contract company to decontaminate the aircraft and manage contaminated waste. If contracted support is required, companies that may have experience performing this kind of cleaning and decontamination include those certified through associations such as the National Institute of Decontamination Specialists (NIDS), Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IIRC), or American Bio Recovery Association (ABRA), or who have completed training as outlined in the OSHA Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard (HAZWOPER). The contract company must comply with OSHA’s standards on Bloodborne Pathogens (29 CFR 1910.1030), PPE (29 CFR 1910.132), Respiratory Protection (29 CFR 1910.134), Hazard Communication (29 CFR 1910.1200), and other requirements, including those established by state plans, whenever such requirements apply.


  • Contract company: A company hired to complete a needed task. Regarding cleaning and disinfecting aircraft of ebolaviruses or other hemorrhagic fever viruses, the contract company should be specialized in disinfecting, handling, and discarding of toxic chemicals, infectious agents, and other hazardous materials with experience in cleaning biohazard and aircraft interiors.
  • Decontamination: Making an item safe to handle or an area safe to occupy.  The process may include cleaning and disinfection to remove and kill pathogens.
  • Detergent: A surfactant or a mixture of surfactants with cleaning properties in dilute solutions to assist in removing soil and dirt from surfaces or items.
  • Disinfectants:  Chemical products that will make certain biological agents inactive. Specific to ebolaviruses and other hemorrhagic fever viruses, use a disinfectant included in EPA List L: Disinfectants for Use Against the Ebola Virus or List Q: Disinfectants for Emerging Viral Pathogens (EVPs). Always use disinfectants according to manufacturer’s instructions. Any disinfectant used on board an aircraft should be approved by the aircraft manufacturer.
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE): Equipment worn to prevent exposure to hazardous substances (e.g., chemicals, infectious agents, particles).


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  3. Weber, D.J. and W.A. Rutala (2001). Risks and Prevention of Nosocomial Transmission of Rare Zoonotic Diseases. [PDF – 11 pages] Healthcare Epidemiology. 32:446-456
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  2. Gale, W.F., H.S. Gale, and J. Watson, “Field Evaluation of Whole Airliner Decontamination Technologies for a Narrow-Body Aircraft,” FAA Technical Report DOT/FAA/AM-08, 2008, Washington, DC: Office of Aerospace Medicine.
  3. Gale, W.F., H.S. Gale, and J. Watson, “Field Evaluation of Whole Airliner Decontamination Technologies—Wide-Body Aircraft With Dual-Use Application for Railcars,” FAA Technical Report DOT/FAA/AM-08/4, 2008, Washington, DC:Office of Aerospace Medicine.
  4. Shaftstall, R.M., R.P. Garner, J. Bishop, L. Cameron-Landis, D.L. Eddington, G. Hau, S. Spera, T.Mielnik, and J.A. Thomas, “Vaporized Hydrogen Peroxide (VHP®) Decontamination of a Section of a Boeing 747 Cabin,” FAA Technical Report DOT/FAA/AM-06/10, 2006, Washington, DC: Office of Aerospace Medicine.
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Additional Resources