Don’t Help the Virus
Contracting the Ebola virus is relatively difficult. The virus has a hard time surviving outside of the body so it has to be transferred quickly from host to host. In order to contract Ebola, you have to take an active role in transferring infected fluids to your own body. Taking these precautions will help ensure you are safe from infection – even if you are trapped for several hours with a suspected carrier.
1. Carry and Use Alcohol Based Hand Sanitizer
According to the CDC, the Ebola virus is susceptible to alcohol based sanitizers. After getting to your seat, use the sanitizer on both hands. Rub the sanitizer on palm, between fingers, and be sure to use enough to cover the backs of your hands up to your wrists. Be neighborly and ask if any of your seat-mates would like some sanitizer as well.
2. Wipe Off Your Tray Table
In everyday situations, the Ebola virus does not survive outside of wet surfaces. However, the virus has been found to survive for several days when dried on dark, cool surfaces. Someone sneezing on a tray table and then quickly folding it into the seat may foster such an environment. Bring bleach wipes or use a napkin to wipe your hand sanitizer over the tray table and allow it to dry. If you carry alcohol wipes, use those as they will be more effective and will dry off more quickly.
3. Treat Your Hands as Enemies
Merely touching infected fluids does not mean that you will contract the Ebola virus. You typically have to get infected fluids on your hands and then touch the vulnerable parts of your mouth, nose, or eyes before the virus is able to get into your bloodstream. In between hand washing or using alcohol-based sanitizers, make an effort not to touch your face. If you have children with you, also avoid touching their faces until you have cleaned your hands
4. Shield Your Face from Coughing and Sneezing
If someone is actively coughing or sneezing next to you, hope that they are doing so into a kleenix, towel, or at least the sleeve of their shirt. While the Ebola virus is not transferred via “aerosolization” – or by microscopic droplets emitted when breathing, phlegm and snot (no easy way to say it) are ideal carriers. Turn your head away from someone who is coughing or sneezing to avoid getting large drops of phlegm on your face. Keep an eye on what the sick seat-mate does with the used Kleenex and ensure that the tissue doesn’t make its way onto your items.
5. Don’t Share Food or Drink
When the flight attendants start passing out snacks and drinks, often seat-mates will help pass these food and drink items from the aisle to the window seat and back. If you have a sick person in your row, be careful not to drink from parts of a cup he or she has touched or clean your cup with your alcohol-based sanitizer. Hold foods from the outside of the plastic wrapper and eat them without touching them first.
Being stuck in an airplane with sick people is an unfortunate, but unavoidable, consequence of travel. Following these precautions will allow you to protect yourself without having to be wary or rude to your fellow travel mates. Be safe and good luck!
Richard Buchler is a board certified healthcare executive and managing director of Trauma Ready. He lives in Chicago, IL.