Can Electronic Passenger Data Help Contain An Epidemic? - InformationWeek

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Can Electronic Passenger Data Help Contain An Epidemic?

Delta Air Lines is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to see if quickly providing electronic passenger data will help the centers track down sources of an illness to prevent an epidemic from spreading.

If there were an outbreak of SARS in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would need to quickly track down sources of the illness to prevent an epidemic from spreading.

To help prepare for a potential public health crisis involving SARS or any number of possibly deadly illnesses, Delta Air Lines is working with the CDC on a pilot project in which the airline would electronically provide passenger data quickly to the CDC.

In an emergency, the CDC could use the passenger data to track down the origin of and map out the potential spread of a disease, including those brought into the United States by international travelers.

Under the pilot project, Delta is providing the CDC with fictitious information, not real passenger data, which the airline would turn over only under a court subpoena, says a Delta spokeswoman. However, the goal of the project is to have all the technology pieces in place to quickly send the data to CDC in case of a public health emergency, she says.

A CDC spokeswoman says the center is "in conversations" to work with other airlines and industry organizations in similar projects so that they, too, could quickly provide passenger data electronically.

The Delta project wouldn't likely serve as the standard for all the other airlines to transmit their passenger data to CDC, the CDC spokeswoman says, because "each of the airlines have different technologies" in use.

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