Interim Guidance for Cleaning Aircraft Exteriors after Collisions with Birds in Avian Influenza A (H5N1)-Affected Areas
NOTE: This document is provided for historical purposes only and may not provide our most accurate and up-to-date information. The most current travel health information can be found on the Travelers' Health homepage.
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Airplanes occasionally collide with birds in the air or during take-off or landing, resulting in visible residue that must be cleaned from the exterior of the plane after landing. In areas where avian influenza A (H5N1) outbreaks are ongoing among bird populations (see Embargo of Birds from Specified Countries: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/outbreaks/embargo.htm), such a collision might occur with an infected bird, posing a theoretical risk of contaminating the exterior surface of the plane with infectious blood, feces, feathers, or other material. Any potential risk of human exposure may be reduced by observing the following cleaning recommendations when a bird strike has occurred to an airplane taking off from, flying over, or landing in one of the H5N1-affected countries. These recommendations are based on professional judgment of infectious disease experts, using their knowledge of routes of transmission and the perceived low level of risk in such cases.
- Avoid washing contaminated surfaces with pressurized water or cleaner, which could theoretically aerosolize H5N1 viral particles that could then be inhaled.
- Use non-sterile vinyl or nitrile gloves that cover part of the arm.
For additional protection:
- Disposable coveralls may be used to protect clothing while cleaning.
- If the cleaning method may create splashing, safety goggles or glasses and a surgical mask may be worn to protect the mucous membranes (See NIOSH Eye Protection for Infection Control).
- Use an agent equivalent to household cleaner or detergent to clean the surface and allow to air dry in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Place any bird carcasses or parts removed during cleaning in a double-plastic bag and place in an appropriate trash receptacle.
- Avoid touching the mouth or face with soiled hands or gloves.
- Remove gloves and coveralls (if used), discard in an appropriate receptacle (or the same bag with bird parts), and wash hands with soap and water. Next, remove glasses, and/or mask (if used), discard or clean as appropriate, and wash hands again.
- Hands can be cleaned with an alcohol-based hand gel (at least 60% alcohol) when not visibly soiled and when soap and water are not available.
Flexibility in modifying personal protective equipment requirements may be necessary as determined on the basis of the task and circumstances of the cleaning activity.
The International Air Transport Association also provides information on air transport and communicable diseases on their website, as well as more general guidance on cleaning planes after a collision with a bird.
Additional guidance about avian influenza for airline flight, maintenance, and cleaning crews can be found on the CDC Travelers’ Health website:
- Guidance about Avian Influenza for Airline Flight Crews and Persons Meeting Passengers Arriving from Areas with Avian Influenza
- Guidance for Airline Cleaning Crew, Maintenance Crew, and Baggage/Package and Cargo Handlers for Airlines Returning from Areas Affected by Avian Influenza
For avian flu-related travel information, see http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/contentAvianFluInformation.aspx
For additional information on avian influenza, please consult the CDC Avian Influenza webpage. .