Avoiding crowded places is one precautionary measure against the novel coronavirus threat, but sometimes, you just can’t avoid getting on a plane for work or personal reasons. If you really must, a top airline doctor gives tips on how to best protect yourself.
Frequent hand washing is the way to go, according to David Powell, a physician and medical adviser to the International Air Transport Association. He told Bloomberg that hand washing or sanitizing is more advisable than wearing face masks and gloves.
“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.”
He said gloves are “probably even worse” because “people touch everything they would have touched with their hands, so it becomes another way of transferring microorganisms.” If your hands get hot and sweaty inside the gloves, it becomes “a really good environment for microbes to grow.”
He said the risk of getting infected on a plane because of the air circulation is “low.” This is because the air is different—about half fresh air and half re-circulated air. “The re-circulated air goes through filters of the exact same type that we use in surgical operating theaters. That supplied air is guaranteed to be 99.97 percent (or better) free of viruses and other particles."
Because the virus won’t survive long on dry surfaces, he said it’s best to be careful of human contact and avoid touching the face. When coughing or sneezing, he advised using a sleeve or tissue (to be carefully disposed of afterwards) and then hand washing or sanitizing.
The novel coronavirus, which originated from Wuhan, China, has killed over 600 people and infected over 28,000, according to CNN. A vast majority of the cases are from China. Among the recent confirmed casualties is Chinese doctor Li Wenliang who was reprimanded for warning colleagues about the virus in December 2019.
Follow Dyan on Instagram.