By Alison Fox
Updated March 06, 2020
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued updated guidelines for airlines as coronavirus continues to spread around the United States.

The new guidelines issued this week, specifically instruct carriers to report “ill travelers from any country” who have a fever or characteristic symptoms of the virus. In the case of a sick passenger present, the agency suggested “enhanced cleaning procedures,” including cleaning all soft surfaces (like seats and seat belts) within six feet of that sick passenger.

Hard surfaces (think: armrests, tray tables, window shades, and the entertainment system) should be cleaned with special disinfectant products that have “EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens claims that are expected to be effective against the virus that causes COVID-19,” according to the agency.

If there are no sick passengers on a flight then the cabin crew can stick to “routine” cleaning procedures.

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In addition to requiring that all cleaning supplies necessary should be on board, the CDC also reminded airlines that common spaces like bathrooms should be thoroughly cleaned as well, and anything that can’t be cleaned — like pillows — should be thrown out. The agency also has advised ground and cleaning crews to not board the plane until all passengers have left and that all ventilation systems should be on.

The new guidance represents the latest in a series of efforts by the agency to help Americans understand how to combat the growing COVID-19 epidemic. In the U.S., more than 230 people have been diagnosed with the virus and 14 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University's real-time updates.

To protect the crew, the agency recommended they wash their hands often — especially after helping a sick passenger — and use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. The CDC also recommended airline companies train all crew, including ground and cleaning crew, on the correct ways to put on and take off “personal protective equipment,” like gloves, gowns, or goggles.

As for passengers, practicing general flu hygiene which also includes the use of regularly washing hands or using hand sanitizer is recommended.