Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Friendly Skies, My A$$!

Do not read this book if you have trouble sleeping.  Read it if you don't WANT to sleep for about three weeks.I don't have a good memory, so there have been very few books that I've read in the past that have stuck with me over the course of time. But one that has is "The Hot Zone." No, I don't remember the characters or any of the details, but I remember that it scared the living daylights out of me and everyone I worked with.

At the time (1994) I was a summer intern at GMC Truck, and my boss had read the book and then became so terrified of germs that the rest of us read it to see what the fuss was all about. Which resulted in meetings where we all sat nervously around the conference table, afraid to breathe on each other in case one of us had unknowingly contracted the Ebola virus. The book recounts the true story of multiple outbreaks of the Ebola and Marburg viruses, and went into great detail explaining how those who contracted the unfortunate diseases would essentially bleed out of every crevice and pore until they died. I repeat: this was a true story!!! When Stephen King says a book is one of the most terrifying things he's ever read, then you know it's got to be horrific.

Why I am bringing up a book that I last thought about 13 (gasp!) years ago? Because I was reminded of it again today when reading an article on entitled: U.S. seeks fliers possibly exposed to rare TB.

After finishing the article, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I could laugh when considering how ridiculous it sounded to request that people "in the same row, or two rows ahead or behind" the TB-carrier get exams to see if they, too, became infected. Ummmm.... I'm sorry, but if I was on the flight that left the gate five gates DOWN from the flight in question, I'd be busting it to the doctor's office before you could say "hypochondriac." I mean, this strain of TB is known to be fatal!!! Don't mess around with us, CDC! But I could cry thinking about the fact that you can never really ensure that something like this doesn't affect your life or your loved ones' lives, now can you?

And get this: "The man's tuberculosis had been diagnosed before his departure, but he disregarded his doctor's recommendation that he not travel."

Well, guess what, Mr. TB? When you get out of the hospital, if you DON'T die from the dangerous strain you're carrying, an angry mob of frequent fliers is going to be waiting for you, and they are going to give a whole new meaning to the term "Air Rage."

Like we don't have enough to worry about when we fly... making sure we've got on easy-to-remove shoes, shoving any and all liquids we have into a teeny plastic quart-sized container, remembering to take out laptops, worrying about missing our flight because of ridiculously long security lines, I'm BAD, I'm bad... OK, maybe not.feeling crappy from eating airport food, the ramifications of delayed flights, etc., etc. Now you've got to think twice about everyone sitting around you - are they carrying a flesh-eating virus, perhaps?

Now that I've vented to you all, I'm going to stop fretting about this. Any of us could meet our maker at any point in time, there's just no telling if you are going to get hit by the proverbial bus on a given day. However, I realize that the odds of me, or any of us, being on a flight with someone who is carrying a freakish airborne disease are extremely slim indeed. I'll take my chances and still go to Vegas in a few weeks - twist my arm! But I may carry a Michael Jackson-style face mask with me in my backpack, too, for good measure!

- e

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
I am J & N's friend and work at a TB training center. There is so much to cover but here is a link to find out more about XDR TB
Basically, risk of exposure depends on what type of TB the infected person has, if that person is coughing, etc. Generally on airplanes they say that if you are in close proximity to an infectious case for more than 8 hours you should get tested. But again, risk of infection will differ for each individual depending on your health status.