You’re seated next to a sick person on a long-haul flight. How can you avoid falling ill?


Updated

September 06, 2018 13:38:41

Tests are underway in the US after about 100 people reported feeling sick following a long-haul flight from Dubai to New York.

The Emirates flight was quarantined after landing at the John F Kennedy Airport, and at least three passengers and seven crew were taken to hospital for further assessment.

So what could the infected passengers have, and is there anything you can do to protect yourself from sickness on a plane?

What do the infected passengers have?

The passengers most likely have the flu, according to Dr Oxiris Barbot, the acting health commissioner in New York.

Some complained of headaches, sore throats and fevers, which is consistent with influenza, and there were reports from other passengers of some having a “very deep, intense cough”.

“[They were] violently sick, going into the bathroom a lot,” Erin Sykes, a passenger on the plane, told reporters.

“Given the symptoms that we are seeing in the patients and given the history that they present, it looks like this is probably influenza,” Dr Barbot said.

“But again, until we have our final results late tonight we won’t be able to give a final determination on what the underlying cause is of this illness.”

Did they catch it on the plane?

The influenza virus is highly contagious, and can be spread simply by breathing.

When an infected person breathes, coughs and sneezes, tiny virus-laden mucus are propelled into the air and can travel into your airway. It can also be spread via contact.

But according to Dr Kirsty Short, a research fellow studying influenza and viral pandemics at the University of Queensland, it is “very unlikely” the infected Emirates passengers caught the illness during the 14 hours they spent on the plane.

“That would be a very unusually short incubation period for the flu. Normally it’s three to five days incubation,” Dr Short said.

Dr Short said when there was an outbreak on a plane, it was normally gastro.

“Gastro is that quick incubation period where you feel fine and all of a sudden you’re running to the toilet. Flu is a much slower illness,” she said.

So what can you do to protect yourself from flu on a plane?

Research shows you have the highest risk of catching sickness on a plane if you’re seated within two rows of an infected person.

So if you find yourself in the danger zone, Dr Short said there were three things you could do to protect yourself.

Firstly, you could try wearing a face mask.

“There is some evidence that wearing a face mask is protective … but it’s contingent upon wearing the right one and wearing it properly,” Dr Short said.

“You sometimes see people walking around with a face mask but they’ve only got it over their mouth, not their nose.”

But face masks could be problematic on long-haul flights, as you would need to take it off to eat.

Secondly, you could use a nasal spray.

“If the mucosal surface of your nose dries out on long-haul flights, that can make you more susceptible to respiratory infections,” Dr Short said.

“Mucus is part of your anti-viral response — it’s one of those barriers your body presents to try to stop viruses from invading.

“Nasal sprays can help rehydrate your mucosal surfaces and keep your nose moist.”

And finally, you could get a flu shot prior to travelling.

“At the end of the day, the best protection you have is getting vaccinated,” Dr Short said.

What about hand sanitiser?

Dr Short said hand sanitiser was more effective against gastro.

“Gastro viruses are able to survive on surfaces really well and for a long period of time. Flu dies within 24 hours,” she said.

“So yes you can use a hand sanitiser, but really if you’re sitting next to a person with the flu, you’re more likely to acquire it from inhaling.”

Topics:

health,

diseases-and-disorders,

infectious-diseases-other,

united-states

First posted

September 06, 2018 13:14:52



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *