A case of the sniffles after a long-haul flight is a common holiday souvenir. Studies show you’re 100 times more likely to catch a lurgy from a passenger during a flight than walking around outdoors, thanks to the germ storm of confined space and recycled air. With the recent outbreak of Coronavirus that has spread rapidly and killed scores – mostly in mainland China where it originated – it’s time to think seriously about precautions.
CORONAVIRUS TRAVEL ADVICE
Like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), we’re looking at a virus that was first acquired from exposure to animals (most likely at a live animal market in Wuhan, China, where many of those first infected worked or frequently shopped).
The World Health Organisation has declared the outbreak a global health emergency. The fast-spreading virus’ most common symptoms include fever, cough and respiratory difficulty with severe cases causing pneumonia, organ failure and death. While most of the patients who have died thus far have been older than 60 and/or had a pre-existing condition, it’s advisable to take extra precautions.
SHOULD I WEAR A FACE MASK ON A PLANE?
A study during an outbreak of SARS found protection – whether a mask or respirator – reduced the risk of infections in health care workers by about 85 per cent, but many infection disease specialists add that the risk is only lowered if usage is consistent (no pulling down the mask to chat on your phone, or take a quick sip of your coffee). Which mask? Industrial styles such as the N-95 might feel more heavy and uncomfortable but tend to offer a little more protection.
Elsewhere, health authorities recommend to wash hands regularly with soap and water, or a hand sanitiser with a high alcohol content (at least 60 per cent), avoid contact with wild or farm animals, thoroughly cook meat and eggs, steer clear of people who are ill or have been ill, and cover nose and mouth whenever we sneeze or cough. Use an antibacterial wipe on the plane tray table and seat back entertainment system. Should you feel unwell – particularly after travel – seek help from a healthcare professional immediately. Call ahead to let them know your situation. Prevention is everything.