Flying with caution, with SARS

by Medindia Content Team on  April 21, 2003 at 4:25 PM General Health News   - G J E 4
Flying with caution, with SARS
The risk of contracting SARS on a plane trip may probably be small if the trip isn't to Asia. Public worry is justified because too little is currently known about the virus. However people can be comfortable in the fact that newer airplanes have strong filters against viruses. There have even been policies implemented to keep travel as harmless as possible. Newer flights are equipped with sophisticated air cleaning systems that has stringent filters to screen out spores, bacteria and viruses. Air flow patterns are designed in such a way that there exists a minimal flow between the front and back parts of the plane.

Passengers get a mix of outside and recycled cabin air run through a high efficiency particulate air filter which removes extremely small particles, such as viruses and dust. Passengers should remember that virus particles coughed or sneezed onto surfaces, like armrests and tray tables could be vulnerable carriers of SARS. Airlines follow guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that call for extra disinfections, if a SARS infected traveler was on board. Experts suggest frequent hand washing with either soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub to avoid getting infected.

The experts are currently recommending travelers postpone their trips. Safety measures taken by airlines and airports may lessen the risk for those travelers who must fly to affected countries. The Hong Kong Airport Authority has begun to take the body temperature of all outbound passengers to prevent the spread of SARS. Airlines have trained staff to spot symptoms that might help identify passengers who are infected with SARS. Elevator buttons, water coolers doors and push plates are being disinfected hourly and the handles for the moving sidewalks are cleaned after the aircrafts arrival from a SARS affected country. Finally experts say, the risk of contracting SARS on a plane trip is probably small, if the trip isn't to Asia.

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