By Adam Ghassemi KATU News and KATU.com Staff
PORTLAND, Ore. – A big concern for airlines is how to stop the spread of viruses, like H1N1, while people are in confined spaces like an airplane. Doctors suggest the answer may be to require people who are sick or not feeling well to wear masks.
On Sunday aboard Alaska Flight 35, direct from Boston, a passenger who was feeling ill needed help and was assisted by two medical personnel who happened to be traveling on the airplane, according to KATU’s Steve Dunn who was also on the flight.
During the flight, the captain told everyone onboard that the medical personnel had said it was likely the person had “Swine Flu” and suggested that all passengers aboard the flight go see their doctors to receive the Swine Flu vaccine or Tamiflu.
Doctors said once a person introduces H1N1 into the recycled air of a plane’s cabin it can travel and infect other passengers, which is why Dr. Myrna Casono has a strict rule in her office that she said should also apply on board airplanes.
“Anybody who enters this office, if they are coughing, we have a sign that says they have to wear a mask,” she said.
The idea of wearing a mask, whether a person is sick or is not feeling well, has gotten the attention of airports and airlines.
“We’re going to step up the cleaning schedules for high-contact areas like handrails in the airport, and then we’re going to establish some hand sanitation stations,” said Steve Johnson, spokesman for Portland International Airport.
He also said that in the next two weeks passengers and visitors to the airport can expect to see masks available at the TSA checkpoint.
“If someone has a cough or sneeze they could slip that (mask) on voluntarily if they wish,” Johnson said.
But Casono said having a mask is only half the battle.
“Be sure when you wear a mask, don’t wear it halfway,” she said demonstrating how to snugly fit the mask over the nose and mouth.
The passenger from Sunday night’s flight had to be taken to a local hospital. Alaska officials said the person went to the doctor two weeks ago and tested negative for Swine Flu.
Officials at Alaska said they use hospital-grade air filters and disinfectants in all their aircrafts.