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Guidelines for controlling TB on airlines a waste: study

World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines for preventing the spread of tuberculosis through air travel are largely a waste of time and resources, an expert said.

The WHO recommendations, set down in 2006 and 2008, urge health watchdogs to trace and screen passengers who have sat for longer than eight hours in rows adjacent to someone who has tested positive for pulmonary tuberculosis.

In addition, an individual with TB should be barred from all commercial air travel until clearing two tests to show he or she is no longer infectious.

But a review of the evidence, published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, suggests there is little danger of contagion from air travel and tracing passengers is a burden for poor countries whose money would be better spent fighting TB at source.

TB specialist Ibrahim Abubakar of the University of East Anglia in eastern England looked at 13 investigations into 41 scares that tuberculosis had been transmitted by air travel.

A total of 2,761 passengers and crew were screened after potential contact with a TB case.

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