Travelling Whilst Unwell: Broader Risks Than Illness?

This is The Monday Line
by Denis G. Campbell

ebola hysteriaFor weeks FOX News hairdos incited fear about ebola(!). It’s coming, be afraid, nothing anyone can do, so panic! Panic! PANIC! It was so bad members of their commentary team advised against eating someone else’s vomit and mucus off of a subway seat (I kid you not).

While ebola is a serious disease in a greater sense/state of control and preparedness than it was 6 weeks ago, there are so many other diseases out there wreaking havoc, yet we pay scant attention to them. From the respiratory flu-like bug Enterovirus D68 in the US affecting school aged children, to a nasty upper respiratory cough and virus hitting school age kids in the UK, we hear very little about these illnesses in the media.

I spent four days of my US trip last week nearly bed-ridden with an upper respiratory infection. It’s reasonably certain I caught it from my daughter who has for six weeks been battling it. And I didn’t help myself reliving my road warrior days of three decades ago. This trip I scheduled almost every minute of my time. That is until my body decided ‘enough was enough.’

Following Preparations late Monday, US election night coverage in the UK (which means overnight commentary for contracted outlets and others), 26-hours on my feet Wednesday travelling, four hours of sleep then into a busy Thursday of meetings and getting about five hours of sleep the next night… (maybe 15 hours of real sleep in 92 hours), I was stricken in a department store parking lot and had to learn how to re-breathe through wheezing spasms and phlegm that panicked me and shut down my ability to breathe.

To the customers of Kohl’s in Randolph, Massachusetts and their brilliant manager, who was indeed ‘Johnny on the spot,’ I am indebted to the spirit of my fellow man who did not run the other way rather when a very large man was in real distress. Rather 6 or 7 people came to help. To the woman who gave me her inhaler, whoever you are, wherever you are, you are MY heroes. I have not had a day since Friday where an attack occurs causing me to wheeze, but in mind over body style, I’m able to correct the problem more quickly.

It got me thinking about the spectre of these less covered but more communicative diseases. They are easily picked up in those aluminium air transport tubes where one is trapped for 7-8 hours using less than hygienic toilet facilities, sitting in seats just hours before occupied by whomever with whatever(?), eating off of trays of food mass produced by people many of whom have to work through flu and illness to be able to earn their paycheque and storing my stuff in a ‘God only knows what else was stored in it’ seat back pocket… No wonder I’m feeling unwell.

For only the second time in 40 years of flying, I contemplated rescheduling my flight, but was much better Thursday and knew I would have an entire weekend to recuperate at home. (Note: a visit to my GP literally one hour after alighting from the plane led to a course of antibiotics and further instructions on what to take and in what amounts of decongestants.)

It got me wondering, how many dozens or even hundreds of people in even worse shape travelled and feel a need to do so every day? Remember SARS (bird flu) and how airports in Asia installed elaborate thermal scanners to discover disembarking potentially ill travellers? What are we doing or should we do to stop the spread of illness?

I can hear the trolls yelling at me for travelling, the airline manufacturers protesting that their aircraft filtration systems are safe and airlines claiming their cleaning crews are the best in the business. It still does nothing to ease my mind.

Damn. I really did not mean to be Downer Denis this Monday but I guess these are the thoughts we have when feeling this unwell. And yes, I did spend far too much time in the depressing but secure US homeland watching telly and listening to radio in my rental car.

There was a non-stop stream of adverts telling me to ask my doctor about miracle drug ‘x’ while listing a retinue of side effects that would preclude me from EVER doing that. Every known interest group took to the airwaves post-election with adverts urging Congress to take up one legislative position after another. The dial was almost completely filled with stations that ranged from Bible belt preachers and Right Wing nut job blaming demon Obama for everything gone wrong in the world or news radio with traffic and weather on the 8’s so jam filled with teaser headlines my head was actually spinning.

And it was all presented with a string of food and restaurant adverts for ‘heart attack on a bun’ sized burgers, 20 assortments of wings, beer and sports served up with meals laced with enough salt, sugar and fat to eliminate the population they were trying to get to buy their wares?

No wonder I feel ill.

Denis G Campbell View more

Denis G Campbell
Denis G. Campbell is founder and editor of UK Progressive magazine and co-host of The Three Muckrakers podcast. He is the author of 7 books and provides Americas, EU and Middle Eastern commentary to the BBC, itv, Al Jazeera English, CNN, CRI, MSNBC and others. He is CEO of Monknash Media and a principal with B2E Consulting in London. You can follow him on Twitter @UKProgressive and on Facebook.

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