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Interviews

Flight attendants furious about the Ebola threat

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," October 16, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
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O'REILLY: The "Factor Follow-up" segment tonight, as you may have heard, the second nurse infected with the Ebola virus took a round-trip flight from Dallas to Cleveland. And now health officials are trying to track down passengers onboard the Frontier flight coming back to Dallas. 29- year-old Amber Vinson said she actually called the CDC before she got on the plane, but the feds say Ms. Vinson was not fully forthcoming to CDC officials so the situation is still very murky.

Joining us now from Washington, Sara Nelson, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants.

So, you know, you could understand, obviously, you're the president. You hear this all and you know people now have to work with thousands of people and now this is in the back of their mind. How is that affecting flight attendants all over the country?

SARA NELSON, INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT, ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS: I would say it's not just in the back of their mind. This is at the forefront of what flight attendants are thinking about as they're going to work. So we're aviation's first responders and we're charged with the safety, health and security of the passengers in our care and everything that's happening in that aircraft cabin.

And today we understand that there is a risk that we could encounter the Ebola virus onboard our aircraft. We know it's highly unlikely that this is going to happen, but the reality is that our Frontier flight attendants just confronted this the other day and now they're managing the fallout of that.

O'REILLY: Ok. Now --

NELSON: So it is at the forefront of our thoughts, Bill.

O'REILLY: All right so the reality is that flight attendants are at the mercy of fate. Thomas Duncan got on a plane in Liberia, he went to Brussels, he went to Kennedy, he went to Dallas. Flight attendants had this guy, you don't have to deal with this guy all of those legs. And then we have Miss Vinson who after treating Mr. Duncan goes to Cleveland and then Cleveland to Dallas.

What is the attitude now? Do the flight attendants want what I want? A suspension of West Africans into this country? Would your union support that?

NELSON: What flight attendants believe and what our union believes is that we need to be looking at every option to contain and minimize and stamp out the risk of Ebola being spread through commercial of aviation.

O'REILLY: All right. But you're going to have to make a decision whether to support the quarantine of West Africans or not. I think it's going to happen, but I wouldn't -- you know, the flight attendants union is fairly powerful. If it were me I would be supporting that because you're going to have, if you don't do that, you're going to have people flying in here from the affected areas.

NELSON: So this is not a matter of being supportive of that particular provision or not. This is the fact that I'm concerned that we -- there are several precautions that need to be taken here and the reality is that we have Ebola in the United States now. It's not just in West Africa.

So if we have a travel ban I want to make it very clear to the public and to everyone who is responsible for containing this that that alone is not going to solve the problem. So we can talk about a travel ban, that's fine and we should be talking about that, but we need to be talking about all of the measures that need to be taken in order to keep our crews safe and the traveling public safe.

O'REILLY: Like what? Are you going to wear hazmat suits and coming down the aisle and giving people peanuts I mean you know. And I'm not making light of it, but look, you've got latrine situation in an airplane where an infected person can use a latrine and then a hundred other people use the same latrine and it has to be cleaned by airline workers and the flight attendants have access to that, as well. You have people who could sneeze on you. It's almost impossible to protect your membership, Miss Nelson.

NELSON: Well the reality is that there is a lot that can be done to protect airline crew and passengers. And first and foremost, Bill, you're right. I mean we need to keep this threat off the airplane because once you're in the air --

O'REILLY: That's right you need to keep it as much as we can away from this country. Give me one thing that you want, your union and membership want that you don't have now in the ebola situation -- just one.

NELSON: Just one thing. Ok. I can give you a whole list, but if you're asking for just one, we would like to see universal precaution kits boarded on every single flight available to every single crew member and any health care providers who may be onboard to help us contain an incident that we come encounter with.

O'REILLY: And what are in those kits?

NELSON: Surgical masks, gloves, goggles, protective gear and we also need to have the ability to determine whether or not this is an actual threat because this is flu season, and don't forget --

O'REILLY: You're never going to get that, Miss Nelson. You're not doctors. You're never going to be able to get, that's why this whole facade at JFK and Dulles and Newark and Chicago. Civilians are never going to be able to diagnose anything. But I do agree with you with the kit --

NELSON: Well what I'm trying to say, Bill --

O'REILLY: I think you should have the kit. Last word.

NELSON: Absolutely. I mean we need to have the best possible protective gear that we can have. Our members have to have that. And they also we have to have briefings before these flights so that we understand what our reporting procedures are.

O'REILLY: Absolutely.

NELSON: And what our procedures are if we encounter this onboard the aircraft.

O'REILLY: Right.

NELSON: And what we should be doing prior to that airplane door closing so that we're keeping the threat off of the airplane.

O'REILLY: All right Miss Nelson, we appreciate it very much.

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