I have several trips booked during the next two months (including a mileage run stopping in two different European countries). With coronavirus fears spreading around the globe, I debated whether or not to wear to a mask during my travels — especially on airplanes.
Because those surgical masks protect you from coronavirus — right?
According to Dr. David Powell, who serves as medical adviser to International Air Transport Association (IATA), masks and gloves actually are more effective spreading bugs than stopping them.
So what’s the best defense against coronavirus — especially when traveling?
In an article penned by Bloomberg’s Kyunghee Park, the good doctor says frequent hand washing is the best way to avoid coronavirus.
“The risk of catching a serious viral infection on an aircraft is low,” Dr. Powell says
But isn’t the air inside airline plane cabins all gross and stuff?
Dr. Powell explains that an airliner’s “recirculated air goes through filters of the exact same type that we use in surgical operating theaters” and “is guaranteed to be 99.97% (or better) free of viruses and other particles. So the risk, if there is one, does not come from the supplied air. It comes from other people.”
He stresses good hand hygiene is the number one way to prevent spreading germs. “Contrary to what people think, the hands are the way that these viruses most efficiently spread,” he notes. “Top of the list is frequent hand washing, hand sanitizing, or both. Washing your hands and drying them is the best procedure.
“Avoid touching your face. If you cough or sneeze, it’s important to cover your face with a sleeve…or a tissue to be disposed of carefully, and then sanitizing the hands afterward.”
Masking the Truth?
But masks must be effective for, um, something?
Yes and no.
“There’s very limited evidence of benefit, if any, (to wear masks) in a casual situation,” he says. “Masks are useful for those who are unwell to protect other people from them. But wearing a mask all the time will be ineffective. It will allow viruses to be transmitted around it, through it and worse still, if it becomes moist it will encourage the growth of viruses and bacteria.”
And forget about gloves. Dr. Powell says they are “probably even worse (than masks), because people put on gloves and then touch everything they would have touched with their hands.”
As usual, I’ll bring hand sanitizer and use it fairly liberally everywhere I go. I always sanitize my hands as soon as I exit a plane’s lavatory.
My wife religiously takes a travel set of Clorox wipes to clean everything we could possibly touch on a plane (IFE, arm rests, tray tables, air vents, etc).
I’m also a fan of placing hotel room remote controls into plastic bags I bring or just wrapping them in ice bucket baggies.
I will travel with some disposable masks, however. (In fact, I ordered these today.) In the unfortunate event I become sick, then I’ll wear one.
Are You Protecting Yourself from Coronavirus?
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Featured image: ©iStock.com/Wako Megumi
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