Inspiration can come from many sources when writing. I had plans for an entirely different blog this week, but today was a travel day and for those who travel, you never know what may happen, but whatever does, a story generally follows... For the most part, today was relatively uneventful. I scored a reasonable parking spot, I flew through customs and security and even had time for a latte while waiting to board my plane to Newark, NJ.
The flight was a bit bumpy...one particularly bouncy period the pretzels that Air Canada so graciously gave me with my half filled glass of gingerale managed to wiggle their way out from their protective package onto my tray table. Without a thought I popped it into my mouth. YES you can shudder. I did know I did as my senses came to back on line and the voice in my head started screaming "YOU DID NOT WIPE THE TRAY DOWN WITH YOUR DISINFECTANT WIPES!!!!!!!" I was instantly nauseous and I can assure you it had nothing to do with the bumpy ride.
Why did I feel nauseous you ask? Well..because back in May I read an article about a study conducted by a research team at the University of Auburn that was presented at the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) meeting that determined bacteria remain for up to a week on airplane cabin surfaces such as armrests, tray tables, seat pockets, window shades and toilet buttons. In general, bacteria lived longest on the most porous surfaces. MRSA lasted seven days on the cloth seat pocket, six days on the rubber armrest and leather seat, five days on the plastic window shade and tray table, and four days on the steel toilet handle while E. coli survived four days on the rubber armrest, three days on the plastic tray table, and two days on the steel toilet handle. As shown with other studies looking at transmission of organisms, the Auburn study confirmed that porous material prevents bacteria from spreading easily while bacteria on less porous materials such as tray tables were far more likely to transfer to human skin (and in my case, my mouth...).
I had purposely tried to block this study from my brain, I am well on track 6 months into the year to maintain my flight status....I already cringe when people cough and sniffle. I already beat the odds after boarding a plane for which SEVERAL (I confirmed with a steward) passengers had thrown up on a flight back from Orlando. Admittedly, I chalked that one up to a flight of overly tired children who were depressed about leaving Mickey and Mini Mouse behind, but still, the odds for Norovirus were in my favour!
I do not know what possessed me to eat that pretzel off of the tray table. But in preparing for the worst I've confirmed that according to The Mayo Clinic, E. coli O157:H7 infection generally begin three or four days after exposure although are known to occur as early as one day afterward and as long as week later. For those of you who do not know, symptoms can include diarrhea, abdominal cramping, abdominal pain or tenderness, and nausea and vomiting in some people.
Fingers crossed that the airplane was properly cleaned (and maybe sanitized?) between flights, if not and I don't post a blog next week you'll know why!