Why Ebola impacted the airline industry

During fatal disease outbreaks, rules and restrictions are imposed—especially on air transportation. This includes canceling flights to the affected areas.

Teresa Cederholm - Author

Nov. 20 2020, Updated 3:21 p.m. ET


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (or CDC), one in every two people infected with the Ebola virus disease (or EVD) died. Ebola is transmitted to people from wild animals—for example, bats, chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, porcupines, and antelopes.

It spreads through direct contact with the bodily fluids of a person who is infected with the virus. It also spreads through contaminated objects like needles and other medical equipment. Ebola can spread through infected animal meat.

The incubation period is the time interval between the virus infection and the onset of symptoms. Ebola’s incubation period is two to 21 days.

It’s believed that humans aren’t infectious until they develop symptoms. The common symptoms include fever, muscle pain, headache, and sore throat. More severe symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and possibly bleeding in some cases.

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In 2014, Ebola spread across west Africa—including Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Other affected areas include the U.S., Nigeria, Spain, and Senegal. The CDC is working with other U.S. government agencies—like the World Health Organization (or WHO)—to control the spread of diseases across countries. WHO provides guidance to public health authorities and the transport sector.

During fatal disease outbreaks, rules and restrictions are imposed—especially on air transportation. This includes canceling flights to the affected areas and thorough examinations of passengers entering flights. All major U.S. airline companies—including Delta (DAL), United (UAL), American (AAL), Southwest (LUV), and JetBlue (or JBLU)—must strictly comply with the restrictions. Exchange-traded funds (or ETFs)—like the SPDR S&P Transportation ETF (XTN)—hold more than 40% in airline industry stocks.

In this series, we’ll discuss how the 2014 Ebola outbreak impacted the economy. We’ll also discuss the impact of other catastrophes in the past. We’ll analyze why the airline industry is at risk if the disease isn’t contained.

Visit the Market Realist Airlines page to learn more about the industry.


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