Holiday travel can not only be a hassle but can you get sick — and in a recent case among Air New Zealand crew members, seriously ill. According to a report last week in Scientific American, recent studies have shown just how easily the cruise ship gastrointestinal bug, norovirus, can be transmitted to travelers on planes.
On a recent Air New Zealand flight, a sick passenger passed norovirus along to the crew. "Not only did the crew that cleaned up the mess get sick, but on every successive flight at least one or more crew members got sick with typical symptoms of norovirus," said David Freedman, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, at a meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene held earlier this month.
Scientific American reports that for five consecutive days, flight crews who worked on the plane continued to pick up the virus.
Cautionary takeaway: Planes aren't routinely cleaned and sanitized, and viruses can linger on hard surfaces for days. "So, when traveling, wash your hands often," warns Scientific American. "And keep your fingers crossed."
Other ideas include carrying a hand sanitizer and keeping your hands away from your face, since germs enter through the mouth, nose, and eyes. WebMD also recommends bringing your own pillow, drinking plenty of water while onboard, boosting your immune system with vitamin C, and using a saline nasal spray before and after a flight, since dry mucus membranes can reduce your resistance to infection.