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Passengers and airline cleaning crews show growing concerns over Ebola

posted 9 Oct 2014, 12:33 by Mpelembe

Airline cleanup crews at New York's LaGuardia walk off the job over growing concerns over exposure to diseases. The protest comes as fears grow over Ebola on U.S. soil, prompting concern among some passengers as well.

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY, UNITED STATES (OCTOBER 09, 2014) (NBC) -   About 200 airline cabin cleaners walked off the job at New York's LaGuardia Airport on Thursday (October 9) to protest what they say is a lack of sufficient protection from exposure to germs and diseases for workers whose jobs include cleaning up vomit and bathrooms.

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The protest comes amid heightened fears over Ebola as the disease spreads inWest Africa and more cases are reported around the world, including on U.S. soil.

Picket lines were set up overnight by non-unionized Air Serv cleaners outsideTerminal D at LaGuardia for a one-day strike prompted by fears about cleaners' safety, including exposure to potentially deadly viruses such as Ebola. The protest by the airline cleaners has forced crew members to clean the planes themselves.

"We want protection during our job. We want our jobs because we need it but we also need to protect ourselves as people, to be respected as people. And the condition that we work in is without any protection for our own health," an Air Serv cabin cleaner said during the protest.

Rob Hill of the Service Employees International Union, the largest service workers union in the United States, said that it was understandable that they went on strike.

"Your health and your safety and your life is being put at risk because you are being pricked with needles and not given proper gloves or trainings of how to deal with it," he said.

The workers, who are trying to join the union, briefly left the strike line to attend an infectious disease training session organized by the union.

The training lasted less than an hour and focused on removing contaminated glovesand washing up properly after potential exposure.

It was attended by workers from LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International Airport, who fumbled with putting on and taking off bright blue and green latexgloves, which they said were thicker and better quality than the ones supplied by their employer.

U.S. officials this week announced tighter screening of travelers from West Africa, where Ebola has killed more than 3,800 people, at five major airports, including JFK.

LaGuardia, which serves only U.S., Canadian and Caribbean destinations, is not among them.

Some passengers welcomed the fortified measure.

"I am a little scared that I catch something. But I am happy that they are doing better screening though," said Kim, a passengers flying into New York at Newark Liberty Airport.

On Thursday New York City mayor Bill de Blasio convened a meeting with different agencies to discuss the handling of a potential Ebola outbreak in the city.

He reassured that New York is well-prepared.

"A group of exceedingly capable individuals and agencies working together are here today, a planning session talking about different scenarios so that we can be ready for each and every one," he said.

The federal government implemented tighter screening measures after Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian national who was the first person diagnosed with Ebola on U.S. soil, died at a Dallas hospital on Wednesday (October 8).