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Frontier Plane With Ebola Patient Decontaminated, Stored In Denver

DENVER (CBS4) - The Frontier Airlines plane that carried a nurse diagnosed with the Ebola virus has been decontaminated and stored in a hangar at Denver International Airport.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention admitted Wednesday evening that it cleared Amber Joy Vinson to take a personal trip between Dallas and Cleveland.

Vinson, the second health care worker in Dallas who has been diagnosed with the deadly disease, flew on a Frontier Airlines plane Monday. On Wednesday the Denver-based airline said the plane the woman was on has been thoroughly decontaminated.

Passengers who were on Monday's Frontier flight 1143 to Dallas with Vinson, 29, have been asked to call the CDC.

The agency's director, Dr. Tom Frieden, said Vinson traveled to Ohio from Dallas before she showed any symptoms of Ebola. Earlier, the CDC said she wasn't cleared to fly.

"We will, from this moment forward, ensure that no other individual who is being monitored for exposure undergoes travel in any way other than controlled movement," he said.

Officials at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport said the Frontier plane was decontaminated twice. Frontier said late Wednesday that the seat covers and carpeting on the plane will be replaced. The crew will be placed on paid leave for 21 days.

Frontier Airlines issued a statement that said the aircraft received a thorough cleaning per normal procedures consistent with CDC guidelines prior to returning to service the next day.

The airline added that the plane was cleaned again after that and the safety of its customers is its primary concern.

The flight carried 132 passengers from Cleveland to Dallas/Fort Worth and landed at 8:16 p.m. Tuesday.

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Officials are trying to interview passengers about the flight, answer any questions and arrange a follow up. They say any passengers who are at potential risk will be actively monitored.

Frieden earlier said Vinson's flight was a breach of protocol.

"Because at that point she was in a group of individuals known to have exposure to Ebola, she should not have traveled on a commercial airline," he said.

(credit: CBS)

Dr. Larry Wolk, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Executive Director, says the risk to others on that or subsequent flights is low.

"This is really transmitted through infected bodily fluids and can only be transmitted from someone who is actively sick or actively ill with this condition," Wolk said. "I wouldn't be concerned unless the passenger sitting next to me had a history of traveling from one of the countries in western Africa."

Dr. Connie Price, Division Chief of Infectious Diseases at Denver Health Medical Center, says the plane should be safe.

"It is disinfected with normal cleaners that we use routinely in hospitals and when going through protocols to clean the aircraft," Price said.

Aviation experts told CBS4 that airlines likely wouldn't clean planes more thoroughly between uneventful flights because it would be too costly.

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