Being a Flight Attendant comes with a lot of responsibility, but being a passenger can too. Read on to find out how you can protect yourself and others from illnesses when travelling abroad, straight from our own travel expert, Flight Attendant instructor Christina Ling!
As a former Flight Attendant/In-flight Manager and current Flight Attendant instructor, it has always been so rewarding to connect people to our vast, beautiful, complex world and make it a little smaller. With modern, high tech, long range aircraft, a dizzying array of airline choices, alliances and frequency, commercial travel has never been more accessible and attainable for so many. Today’s modern aircraft is shrinking the globe one aircraft at a time. But this convenience may come with a price. It does not surprise me that the news currently dominating the western provinces is the measles outbreak. This has caused extreme concern and worry for many in our community, as well as fired up an intense debate between pro-vaxxers and anti-vaxxers. It has been reported that this once-eradicated disease was brought to Canada by passengers travelling abroad. I recently appeared on CBC’s Marketplace episode; Filthy Airplanes, in which I stated that “diseases are one aircraft away.” Officials have determined that these outbreaks were acquired from travel outside of North America.
From the common cold to the flu, the spread of diseases via air travel is not a new concept. There was the very frightening SARS scare in 2003. The first Canadian SARS cases were seen in passengers returning from Hong Kong. Canada recorded 438 probable cases with 44 deaths. In 2009, a 19-year-old Chinese student became the second case of China’s H1N1 swine flu. He travelled to Beijing from Toronto via Vancouver. In 2014, an Alberta woman died after she returned from a three-week trip to her native China. Scientists hypothesized that she contracted the H5N1 flu from passing by an illegal live bird market. Germs can be found anywhere; public transit, schools, and office buildings. Aircraft are no exception. A confined environment with several hundred people for a sustained length of time provide the perfect conditions for viruses to be passed from one person to another. I am not a medical doctor or infectious disease specialist, nor am I here to promote vaccinations. My hopes are to perhaps plant a seed or start a conversation on how to protect yourself if you choose to travel outside of Canada. Air travel can be stressful at the best of times. Before a passenger even boards the aircraft, their patience is tested. Lineups at check-in and security can be frustrating. Hours spent waiting and deliberating the flight ahead can preoccupy the mind. Delays and other unexpected occurrences can certainly also put a damper on the experience.
Another reason to protect yourself and your loved ones is that you do not want to risk becoming ill while away. On a recent trip to Jamaica, a group of women from Ontario contracted hookworm, a painful parasite, from walking barefoot on a beach at their resort. Not a souvenir that anyone would want to bring home as a memory of your tropical getaway. Minor or serious, you do not want to end up in a hospital in a foreign country. Cutting your trip short would very disappointing, worrisome and potentially devastating. Thirdly, think of others. We live in a herd community, there are many of our fellow citizens who, for a myriad of reasons, are unable to receive vaccinations; infants under the age of 1, immune compromised people, seniors. Let’s do what we can to assist others who are unable to help themselves.
Stay tuned for part two of Christina’s blog!
Christina Ling – Flight Attendant Instructor – Former Flight Attendant/Purser CAIL