Thursday, April 30, 2009

Why no air travel? More thoughts

Here's a couple more points to consider re: the travel ban from our Superintendent:

Since people have little or no immunity to this completely new strain of virus, the virus can spread very quickly. The risk of infection is especially high in the strict confines of an airplane.

Airlines are monitoring travelers and anyone displaying flu-like symptoms is not being allowed to fly. It would present significant challenges to manage a situation in which a student or staff member became ill and was not able to return to Edmonton.

The second point resonates with me as I imagine a student getting sick (not even from Swine Flu, just a regular illness) on a trip. They come to the airport and are not permitted to board the airplane because they have a temperature, a cough or look unwell. Now, what happens? Who stays with them? Obviously, they can't be left behind alone. How would this be managed? Who pays for the additional costs? How long would they be delayed? What medical action would be required, etc.? Could they be quarantined? Each country seems to be adopting different measures and responses.

I agree that the likelihood of someone contracting Swine Flu may be very low, but the likelihood of one child within a group of 40 kids getting ill with "flu-like symptoms" on a trip is quite a bit higher. We all know that with the hectic pace of an exciting school trip, sleep is not a top priority. Immune systems are a little wonky and they don't recognize the foreign bugs. I think, as parents, we all know that our kids may come home from a field trip a little tired, maybe with the sniffles, but excited about what they've learned and full of confidence and great stories. We accept that risk- "it's just a cold and they will sleep well when they get home", we say. However, now, having the sniffles might mean your child is stranded in London. If the WHO continues to issue alerts, I'm guessing that airport security measures will continue to ramp up and things could become increasingly restrictive. All of this is beyond our control as a school board and the uncertainty is very difficult for our administrators who need to have contingency plans in place.

I don't wish to add to the panic. I don't believe in over-reactions, but this situation is not as black and white as it might appear on first blush. I have heard from many parents and will continue to have discussions with many people about this. Most people seem completely sympathetic to a ban on travel to Mexico or even the southern States. They cannot understand why trips to Spokane, Quebec and London are being affected when Health Canada has not issued travel bans there. The financial loss and disappointment is real. I've heard the anger. Principals are fielding many calls as well, but they are charged with protecting the health and safety of their children and executing the directives of the Superintendent. They have no choice in this matter.

Thank you for continuing the dialogue with me. I appreciate all your input as we move toward the debate on changing the parameters of the restrictions.

1 comment:

Martin G said...

It is not necessarily true that the strict confines of an an airplanes create an elevated risk of infection.

Here is what Andre Picard had to say about the issue in today's Globe and Mail:

"While airplanes have a bad rap, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that air on-board is actually better than in office buildings and homes."

See for the complete story.