Health experts answer top questions

We know that the HEPA filters in Alaska Airlines aircraft are robust and effective at filtering many pathogens from the air. But does this coronavirus float around in the air?

At this time, there is no evidence that the virus floats in the air leading to infection farther away. Current understanding about how the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) spreads is largely based on what is known about similar coronaviruses. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person. 

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). 
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. 

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. The virus is fragile and does not live long on surfaces.  

If I travel, what are some things I can do to prevent getting sick?

Great question!  Probably the most important thing you can do to prevent getting sick while traveling is to wash your hands frequently.  This means washing your hands not only before eating and after using the bathroom, but also multiple times throughout the day.  Another helpful recommendation is to wipe down high touch surfaces, like tray tables and arm rests. 

Are children or older adults more susceptible to the virus that causes COVID-19 compared with the general population?

There is a lot more to learn about this virus but so far it looks like it doesn’t peer to be very harmful for children.  For most healthy adults this infection may be more like the flu.  At the same time, it does seem to be much more dangerous for older adults and people who have medical issues with their hearts, lungs and kidneys or who may be immunosuppressed. 

How effective is wearing a mask or gloves?

The CDC, who advise the country on public health, recommends against people who are healthy wearing a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. A facemask should be used by people who are ill or show symptoms of having the virus. This is to protect others from the risk of getting infected. Just like masks, gloves are not recommended if the person is not contacting blood or bodily fluids.  We know the people who often wear gloves do not wash their hands as much, which is the most important thing we can do to prevent getting COVID-19, influenza or many other infections.

Meet our doctors:

John Lynch, M.D., M.P.H., is a board-certified physician and medical director of Harborview’s Infection Control, Antibiotic Stewardship and Employee Health programs. Dr. Lynch is also a UW associate professor of Medicine and Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He earned his M.D. and M.P.H. from the University of Washington. He conducts research on healthcare-associated infections. At the UW School of is a board-certified physician and medical director of Harborview’s Infection Control, Antibiotic Stewardship and Employee Health programs. Dr. Lynch is also a UW associate professor of Medicine and Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He earned his M.D. and M.P.H. from the University of Washington. He conducts research on healthcare-associated infections. At the UW School of Medicine. 

Chloe Bryson-Cahn, MD has a master’s degree from the University of Washington School of Public Health and graduated from Temple University Lewis Katz School of Medicine. She completed a residency at UCLA Medical Center and currently practices at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, WA.

 

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