Tell the truth…you all started humming John Denver’s famous song “Leaving on a Jet Plane”. In case didn’t know, the reason he wrote the song was that he loved to travel, but he hated leaving people (friends, family, loved ones) behind while out on the road. I too hate leaving my loved ones behind when out on the road. For most, September signifies back to school and back to routine after an enjoyable summer. For some of us, it also means back to the travel grind of attending tradeshows and events. While my fall does not look as bad as my winter and spring travel, I can say that I’m still on track to keep my travel status and in fact will come in at fewer flights than last year. As I write this blog I have already looked at the weather in Vegas where I am off to on Monday for the ISSA Interclean Tradeshow and started to “virtually” pack my bag.
As many of you are probably well aware, while travelling can be fun and in this case educational, it can also come with myriad of problems such as delayed flights, lost luggage and the very real threat of picking up something infectious. If you’re lucky, it may be just the common cold; and while it’s irritating, you’ll generally recover without much to show for it (unless it’s a man cold of course). If your luck is not so good you may pick up norovirus and take a bit longer to feel back to normal, but happy that you’ve lost any weight you gained over the summer. If you’re really unlucky, well you might pick up the next superbug or emerging viral pathogen. It’s the give and take we have to partake in when it comes to travel. We have the luxury of globetrotting to far away destinations, but so do bugs!
I think we can all agree there have been several studies and articles about how “germy” planes are and what the “germiest” surface is…. The obvious solution is to ensure the plane arrives with enough time to properly turn it around which includes cleaning and disinfecting all of the surfaces the people on the last flight touched. The reality of course is that to avoid delaying the next flight, corners get cut to get the next set of passengers on board. I was extremely interested to see a study out of Arizona State University that looked at ways of decreasing the chance of contamination or spread of germs. They found that if you split up how the plane was boarded you could decrease the risk!
The researchers realized that if you could reduce the clustering and crowding of people in the isles during the boarding process you could significantly reduce the risk of infecting travelers. Using a model looking at transmission of Ebola, they found that under the current boarding process there was a 67% chance of reaching 20 or more cases of air travel-related cases of Ebola per month. However, if they modified how people boarded to reduce crowding, they found the risk of infecting 20 people per month dropped to 40%. They also found that smaller planes (e.g. 150 seats or less) also reduced the risk of transmission. I wouldn’t call that rocket science. With fewer people on a plane there would be less crowding and therefore, the risk of spreading disease would (should) be lower.
Basically, next week I’m doomed. A hot spot like Vegas means a large plane and lots of people. The upside is that my status allows me to be one of the first to board the plane and one of the first to get off the plane. As long as everyone keeps their hands to themselves I should be good! Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I always have a supply of disinfectant wipes!