Monday, February 28, 2011


Flight 167 from Boston to Los Angeles must certainly have been the trip from hell. The stench was unbearable, people were throwing up all over the place and the first class cabin aisle was fouled with diarrhea. In the end, the situation on board was so bad that the flight had to be aborted: the plane was diverted to Chicago O'Hare International Airport, where it was met with paramedics and ambulances. Several passengers were rushed off to hospital.

This is not a recent incident. It happened in 2008. But there is no reason why it can't happen again any time, any flight, anywhere. In fact, it has happened since then, although with less media coverage. The original reported cause of this incident, was food poisoning on a large tour. Several members of this tour group did not even make the flight home because they were too ill, but about another 41 did get on - some already exposed to Norovirus. This common cause of foodborne illness tends to crop up and spread in places where people are in close contact, such as cruises, tours - and, even planes. You can catch it from food, other people and surfaces. On this particular flight, the virus spread from the sick tour group members to other passengers on the plane just in the matter of a few hours.

Here are a few lessons that just might come in useful. Remember, this virus is very contagious.

• If you are on a flight where someone is throwing up, try to move as far away from them as possible preferably not to an aisle seat. In the case of flight 167, people sitting next to a sick person and those in an aisle seat tended to be the ones who became ill (probably because passengers were running up and down the corridors to the rest rooms, and because of the contaminated aisle).
• Try not to use the rest rooms if you believe someone has thrown up in them, even if it has been cleaned up. This type of quick clean during a flight would not be likely to get rid of the virus. In fact, even a thorough sanitation of the plane after this flight did not get rid of it completely.
• Do not eat or drink anything during the flight.
• Be careful not to touch your mouth during the flight (don't even apply lipstick), and as soon as you land, wash your hands very well with soap and water.
• When you get home or to a hotel, throw everything you are wearing into the wash.Even soap down and wash your handbag or other luggage your had with you in the cabin.

And - just hope and pray you'll never be on a flight like this one!



Anonymous said...

Another hazard of travelling. Nothing to do I suppose exceppt try and stay healthy. Any tips of how to build your immune system against norovirus?

Anonymous said...

Immunity to norovirus only lasts for a maximum of 14 weeks post exposure. You'll never be able to "build up immunity" to this one I'm afraid.