The world has been terrorised ever since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, which has been spreading like wildfire without any antidote. The speed by which its spreading has stirred panic around the globe. Prevention when it comes this virus is the best we can do as there are no drugs or vaccines to combat it.
The risk of coronavirus increases manifolds, when it comes to enclosed spaces–like an airplane. You could be sitting next to someone who is infected and mistake it for the common flu–and poof! You’re infected too. But don’t worry, there is a way to protect yourself from coronavirus on a flight too.
In fact, a top airline doctor says that the best way to prevent coronavirus is by washing hands frequently. Since the virus cannot survive long on seats or armrests, the greatest risk of spreading the virus on a flight is through physical contact by another person.
But, first what is the risk of getting contaminated with the virus on a plane?
The chances are low because of the air supply to the modern airliner is very different from any other closed areas like a movie theatre or an office, says David Powell, a physician and medical adviser to the International Air Transport Association.
The air supply is a combination of fresh air and recirculated air. The recirculated air goes through the same type of filter that is used in surgical operating theaters which guarantees the supplied to be 99.97% free of viruses and other particles.
The major risk comes from other people as the viruses and microbes don’t survive on surfaces that have no biological material on it such as seats or armrest for long. Just shaking hands with somebody will be a greater risk. So if there’s any risk of spreading it comes from other people.
How to prevent yourself from getting infected?
Frequent hand washing and hand sanitizing can be very effective as this virus spreads most efficiently through contact. Hence, maintaining good hand hygiene can save you from being getting infected. Powell also suggests covering your face with a sleeve while coughing and sneezing and avoid touching your face are the best ways of coronavirus prevention.
Ever since the outbreak, the top preventive measure everybody has known is wearing masks and using gloves. However, there’s very limited evidence of benefit. In fact, Powell believes it will allow viruses to be transmitted around it and if it becomes moist it will further encourage the growth of viruses and bacteria.
On the other hand, gloves are probably even worse as after putting them on, people touch everything they would have touched with their hands. Further, inside the gloves when your hand sweats it becomes a really good environment for the microbes to grow.
So, how can we prevent the spread of novel coronavirus?
With the easy mobilisation of humans, the ability of viruses to travel rapidly from one location to another has also increased and it’s true that aviation is part of that. But, at the same time aviation is essential to dealing with outbreaks like this.
During the outbreak, if countries just shut down as happened in West Africa with Ebola, the situation can worsen as WHO couldn’t get their people in, they couldn’t get biological samples out for further solutions and treatment. Moreover, general travel bans can make things worse as it will encourage people to travel in secret, which means you lose control of it.
As of now, 25% of new cases are being reported each day, and till the time there’s no decline in the percentage, the worst may not be over.
With inputs from Bloomberg