PLANE INFECTION PROBABILITY AND THE STIFF UPPER LIP
Research shows that it might be a great rule of thumb to look for any reason to go to the doctor after any flight you take. If you find yourself on plane, you may feel fine, and that could continue after you get off the plane; however, if you start to feel anything untoward for any reason in the aftermath of a trip that involved flying, you shouldn’t waste time getting checked out, yet in the UK., it’s entirely probable that many people would. This is based on two studies conducted independently of one another but whose findings are bizarrely supplementary in the context of how British culture might cause a person to discount significant symptoms too long after contracting something on a plane.
The first reason why the odds of an oversight occurring are pretty good is a reason that applies to far more than just the UK. It’s actually quite universal. US researchers published last Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that contagious people on airplanes are particularly likely to give what they have to those next to them or those in front of them. It marks the first study to scientifically take stock of contraction probability on the basis of a contagious passenger’s proximity to others around him or her.
The study involved 10 separate, transcontinental flights, and the research team paid very close attention to passenger movements to make sound conjectures about respiratory infection probability for influenza or severe acute respiratory syndrome, for example. These are both disseminated via microscopic droplets on surfaces and in the air. “Passengers seated within one row and within two seats laterally of the infected passenger had an 80 percent or greater probability of becoming infected” by such things according to the published paper. “For all other passengers, the probability of infection was less than three percent.”
That’s a pretty significant drop, and it suggests fairly well-defined radius for high infection probability. It applies, of course, specifically to the plane cabin environment in which air is especially stagnant and where people are especially restricted in their movements. The scientists caution in the study that infectious crew members could infect 4.6 passengers per flight on average. “Thus, it is imperative that flight attendants not fly when they are ill,” according to the study. These US scientists were on a collaborative project between the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University.
These issues, though, might compound for Britons who have already weathered the odds and ended up catching something whether they realize it or not. The other study was a UK study commissioned in advance of the World Hearing Day, which was recently held at the beginning of the month. The study involved a survey of some 2,000 adults found to be statistically quite likely to ignore symptoms like hearing problems or back pain for several months if not years before seeing a professional about these things. More than one in 20 survey respondents conceded that they waited a year or more before seeking professional help for troubling symptoms. Around 75 percent of Britons presently endure some health concern they won’t deal with, and a backache is the most common among them according to the study.
“It’s worrying to not only see how long people are leaving things before they seek help from a professional, but also that conditions such as hearing loss are on this list,” according to Dr. Hilary Jones, general practitioner and broadcaster. “This symptom now has strong links to other serious health conditions such as dementia, depression, heart health, and diabetes. It’s important to get anything which is causing you concern checked out at the earliest opportunity.” Studies coming out today show hearing loss correlating with depression, diabetes, dementia, and heart health. The new study says 57 percent of Britons don’t know whereas two in five admit to never having their hearing tested in lieu of fearing a legitimate problem.
The point gleaned from all this, though, is that there’s a particularly measurable tendency among Britons to ignore important symptoms. If someone was to actually contract SARS on a plane, it would, of course, be a health imperative not just for them but for everyone anywhere near their destination that they get checked out as soon as possible, yet there are several symptoms that could manifest first that wouldn’t necessarily be enough to move that individual to a doctor according to statistics. SARS initially feels like the flu, and someone who won’t see a doctor for a prolonged backache or hearing loss of all things might not be so inclined to see a doctor about sniffles, a scratchy throat or a fever either.
One might endure all these things and even believe they have a cold, simply attempting to weather the storm with a stiff upper lip. What’s worse, they might even try to go to work. If you only think you have a cold, you’re more likely to take the risk and go to work if it’s a bad time to miss days, and the argument can be made that people always feel like it’s a bad time to miss days.
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