Worried about getting sick on your next holiday or work trip? Know this: It matters where you sit.
You’re fine and healthy when you got on the plane, only to catch a bug during the flight, and feel like crap afterwards. Want to avoid that fate? According to a new study reported by The New York Times, a lot depends on who’s sitting in your row, and the rows in front of and behind you.
So, in case you didn’t know, here’s how flu works – it’s transmitted by small respiratory droplets that go aerosol when someone ill sneezes, coughs or talks. The droplets go about three to four metres, and can be picked up from something the fl u-riddled person had touched as well.
For the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers recorded the movements of 1,540 passengers and 41 crew members, and found that 38 percent of people never left their seats and 38 percent got up just once. Only 43 percent of people sitting by the window seat got up, but 62 percent of middle seat occupants and 80 percent of those on the aisle got up at least once.
Sounds about right, but what does this mean? Using the data they collected, and estimating one metre as the distance required for direct transmission of the flu virus, the researchers constructed 1,000 simulated flights based on two scenarios: If a person in an aisle seat in the middle of the plane had the flu, and if the flight had an infected cabin crew.
The result? The 14 people closest to the fellow in the middle of the plane have the highest likelihood of being affected. Folks sitting on aisle seats also are more at risk. But, then the risk shrinks quickly beyond that.
You also might have read about Singapore Airlines, and how it’s changing its appraisal system so crew who are sick still don’t head in for flights? Well, that matters, too – the study indicated that if a crew member had the flu, he or she would infect an average of 4.6 passengers per flight.
And, exactly how dirty are planes after a flight? The researchers found – based on samples from airplane surfaces before and after passengers boarded – that of the 229 samples collected, not a single one showed any evidence of the 18 common respiratory viruses, which means they’re usually pretty clean.
Lastly, if you have the flu, what should you do to try not to infect anyone else?
The lead author of the study, Vicki Stover Hertzberg, professor of nursing at Emory University, suggests: “Sneeze into your elbow, use good hand hygiene and turn on your air vent. That will send the droplets straight to the floor.”
Tooth Pain on a Plane?
Yes, there is such a thing as “airplane toothache”. “Changing cabin air pressure may exacerbate tooth problems, such as loose fillings or a cracked tooth,” explains Dr. Catherine Lee of Dr. Catherine Lee Orthodontics. Best see a dentist before you fly, if you have any concerns.
By Kelvin Tan / Photo: 123RF.com / Text adapted from www.menshealth.com.sg
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