Friday, May 23, 2014

The other sort of travel bug

It's a long-haul sort of year, this one. I have Chicago under my belt already; in less than two weeks I'll be on my way to Paris; and later in the year it will be Boston. All that means many hours inside aeroplanes, which is a very unnatural place to be. This photo shows especially well how contained and artificial that environment is, I think. Add to that 30,000-plus feet of altitude and 800+ km/hr, and the whole thing starts to seem nightmarishly unlikely and unfriendly.

And now we can add rampant germs to the equation. A US university study has discovered that bacteria can survive for up to a week on surfaces like tray tables, armrests, window shades and seat pockets - as well, of course, as on toilet flush buttons. The bugs they tested - putting them on the surfaces artificially - were staph aureus and E.coli, neither of which anyone would want to transfer unwittingly to their mouth. The surfaces weren't cleaned, they just wanted to find out how long they could live in that environment, but I think we can all guess how punctilious - or not - aircraft cleaning crews are, especially under pressure for a quick turn-around.

It's certainly going to make me think, next flight, about touching things and then eating or even rubbing my eye. I was already feeling a bit wary, since I'll be flying with Air Tahiti Nui again, and after my flight with them to LA in April, I was struck down with a pretty inconvenient stomach upset. I was blaming the food, but now it seems more likely to have been some E.coli bugs lurking around my seat. Note to self: take, and use, hand sanitiser, and be especially careful about cleanliness before eating. (But if I were flying on the plane in the middle, below, I might have other concerns on my mind...)

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