Researching The (Not So) Obvious: Riding Public Transit Shown To Spread Respiratory Infections

sneeze photo

The sneeze. Image credit:Wikipedia

I generally think it odd for a public health research paper to have a hypothesis-questioning title, in the manner of a newspaper or blog. Imagine, for example, back in 1970, how people might react to (a fictional): "Do seat belts reduce severity of automobile related injury?" "Need more data," would have been my reaction.

Had the identical first thought about a (real) research publication recently encountered in BMC Infectious Diseases titled: "Is public transport a risk factor for acute respiratory infection?"

See below, for cited conclusions from the publication Abstract - and my bipartisan comments.

We found a statistically significant association between ARI [acute respiratory infection] and bus or tram use in the five days before symptom onset. The risk appeared greatest among occasional bus or tram users, but this trend was not statistically significant. However, these data are plausible in relation to the greater likelihood of developing protective antibodies to common respiratory viruses if repeatedly exposed. The findings have differing implications for the control of seasonal acute respiratory infections and for pandemic influenza.
Note how infrequent riders might get infected because they've not developed sufficient antibodies for hitchhiking germs.

A few minutes thinking about causative factors and I realized why the questioning title is most sensible.

Polite behavior, or the lack of, - covering one's mouth when sneezing or shaking hands with an acquaintance - are key factors that would vary from place to place.

Crowded conditions on the bus or tram, requiring that standing room passengers hold onto shared SRO rails or knobs, would strongly determine viral spreading rates...and so.

Spin cycle.
Production staffs for Glen, Rush, CEI, and Freedom Works take note. This work clearly demonstrates the need to build up one's immune system by getting out of the Glock-protected bunker or SUV once in awhile.

Wouldn't hurt to have some more stimulus grants for expanding high speed rail either.