It Came From ‘Germophobia’: How Your Next Flight Can Make You Sick

April 10, 2014

We’ve got a brand new book out: Uncle John’s Germophobia. It’s all about hospital horrors, bad doctors, botched surgeries, nightmare nurses, weird diseases, and all the things that can and will go wrong when it comes to your health. Here’s a taste of the kind of thing you’ll find inside.

  • How your next flight can make you sickNot only is airplane food notoriously not very good, as well as expensive, and poorly portioned, eating it puts you at an increase risk of contracting a food-borne illness. LSG Sky Chefs is the largest provider of airplane food, preparing 405 million meals annually for 300 separate airlines. In 2010, an FDA inspection of LSG’s prep facility in Denver found higher than acceptable numbers of roaches, ants, flies, inedible debris, and the deadly listeria bacteria. Part of the problem is that a thorough heating of food kills a lot of food-borne bacteria, and planes are not equipped to serve piping hot, bacteria-free meals.
  • Frequent, long, and frequently long airplane trips in often cramped seats can lead to poor circulation in the legs. That can lead to blood clots, which in turn lead to deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms. About 600,000 Americans develop these kinds of clots every year, and it kills about a sixth of them. There’s even a medical designation for thrombosis caused by air travel: “economy class syndrome.”
  • Avoid aisle seats. Those are the ones that most people pass by or rub up against, leaving tiny nasty particulates in their wake, including germs, bacteria, and viruses. A 2008 outbreak of norovirus left most of one flight’s passengers, um, let’s say “explosively leaking” from both ends. A CDC investigation found that the patients most likely to get sick were the ones on the aisle, who got a noseful of germs every time an already infected passenger ran to the bathroom.
  • But contrary to popular belief, the air you breathe on a plane isn’t “recycled,” nor is it true that if one person on board is sick, everyone will get sick. About 20 times an hour, air outside the cabin is compressed and pressurized, heated up, combined with cabin air, and passed through HEPA filters, which remove more than 99.9 percent of airborne viruses.

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Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Germophobia