With Thanksgiving 'Week' already here, it might be a good time to 'read and review' TSA scanning and personal search techniques in use in American airports today. Here is the 'Pat-Down' link for you: http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/pat_downs.shtm
A thorough read here reveals NO MENTION OF any 'changing of gloves between searches', a fact which is very disturbing. Doesn't the TSA realize that MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS and easy to transmit?
Here is what the Centers for Disease Control, the CDC, has to say about 'MRSA Spread': "MRSA infections, as with all staph, are usually spread by having contact with someone’s skin infection or personal items they have used, like towels, bandages, or razors that touched their infected skin. These infections are most likely to be spread in places where people are in close contact with others—for instance, schools and locker rooms where athletes might share razors or towels."
Modesty, pervert, pedophile and dignity concerns aside...here is my PARTIAL list of health concerns for the modern airline traveler today:
1) Gloves are not changed between 'pat-down' and body exams. FIX: DEMAND that the TSA worker change into new gloves for you. In an ideal case, they would also be required to vigorously wash their hands (and arms) before re-gloving as is done in medical settings and wear face masks when they are contagious.
2) The following is a partial list of infectious agents which can be spread from person-to-person on dirty hands/arms, gloves, security wands, chairs, tables and floors. There is risk not only to the person being examined, but to the TSA Officer, as well. In addition, careless manipulation of diseased or infected areas can spread and exacerbate any existing infection. How ironic in this 'day and age' of repetitive hand-sanitizing with 'gels' of all sorts, our Federal Government has chosen to turn our airports into fulminating 'Petri Dishes' capable of transmitting all sorts of pathogens.
Here are the infectious conditions that concern me the most for now:
--MRSA, as discussed above.
--Tinea corporis ('ringworm'-fungal infection of the body, NOT a 'worm') including: Tinea capitis (fungal infection of the head),Tinea cruris (jock itch) and Tinea pedis (athlete's foot) The most obvious source of infection is the 'floor' where people must stand in (perhaps damp) stocking feet or barefooted. Ringworm may occur anywhere on the body and one form of Tinea can be spread to a place where it ordinarily does not occur, especially in the unsanitary conditions found in airport screening areas.Here's the National Institute of Health LINK for you:
--Other skin diseases to be aware of during your 'airport search' :
--Varicella (chickenpox) In-Short-"Spread by coughing and sneezing (highly contagious), by direct contact, and by aerosolization of virus from skin lesions."
LINK: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/varicella/in-short-adult.htm And YES, you CAN get chickenpox more than once! Consult your health care provider on this one.
Shingles-Herpes zoster http://www.medicinenet.com/skin_problems_pictures_slideshow/article.htmWill 'care be taken' with those who have Herpes zoster (shingles) infections? Running hands over 'herpes zoster-infected' skin not only PICKS UP viral particles, but is bound to be EXTREMELY PAINFUL for the poor person being examined.
ALSO I WOULD ASK, "HOW OFTEN ARE THOSE 'BINS' SANITIZED...if EVER?
--Diseases spread by feces and/or water: Any 'swiping down below the waistband' with anything or any hand, gloved or not is subject to becoming contaminated with fecal pathogens. Diseases of concern include: cholera and typhoid fever.
"Salmonella Typhi lives only in humans. Persons with typhoid fever carry the bacteria in their bloodstream and intestinal tract. In addition, a small number of persons, called carriers, recover from typhoid fever but continue to carry the bacteria. Both ill persons and carriers shed Salmonella Typhi in their feces (stool)."
The bottom-line: contamination with feces on gloves is a potential problem whenever 'hands have the potential to go to mouth'. This is of special concern with children and the elderly. And it goes for all the E. coli pathogens, as well.
--Trachoma: Primary: person-to-person transmission by ocular and respiratory secretions. Secondary: insect vectors such as house flies. A rub-of-the-eye, a cough, sneezing, drooling and 'unchanged dirty TSA Officer gloves' will spread this parasite. You might recall that it was a major problem with Ellis Island immigrants.
--Ascariasis: "an infection of the small intestine caused by Ascaris lumbricoides, a large roundworm. The eggs of the worm are found in soil contaminated by human faeces or in uncooked food contaminated by soil containing eggs of the worm. A person becomes infected after accidentally swallowing the eggs. The eggs hatch into larvae within the person's intestine. The larvae penetrate the intestine wall and reach the lungs through the blood stream. They eventually get back to the throat and are swallowed. In the intestines, the larvae develop into adult worms. The female adult worm which can grow to over 30cm in length, lays eggs that are then passed into the faeces. If soil is polluted with human or animal faeces containing eggs the cycle begins again. Eggs develop in the soil and become infective after 2-3 weeks, but can remain infective for several months or years."
Here's a hypothetical situation for you 'international travelers':
The 'guy in front of you' has 'eggs on his shoe soles. He is asked to remove his shoes and puts his bare sweaty feet where his egg-laden shoes were. He's 'wanded' and then has a 'pat down' which includes his feet because he wears multiple 'corn pads or some other orthopedic device. The TSA Officers gets 'eggs' on his gloves, doesn't change them and then goes onto his next 'pat down' which includes handling this next traveler's handkerchief. The handkerchief 'goes to the traveler's mouth' at some point later that day, he swallows some 'eggs' and voila, our hapless traveler now has roundworms.
Sounds implausible? Don't bet on it for this and any number of other parasitic diseases. You just better hope and pray the person in front of you with bare feet doesn't have secondary or tertiary syphilis!
Yes! That's what I said. My next area of concern is:
--Sexually transmitted disease (STD's): Easily transferred from moist surface to moist surface, such as body-to-glove and back again and in some cases from simple skin-to-skin contact (LGV). STD's which traditionally occur in 'one area', can also inadvertently be spread to other areas, such as the eyes and the mouth under the unsanitary conditions found in airport screening areas. Incontinence pads, catheters and sanitary napkins can be a rich source of pathogens, which when even cursorily 'brushed by a TSA' glove can become a virtual 'disease swab' for the next hapless traveler to be touched by those unchanged gloves.
Secondary Syphilis http://depts.washington.edu/nnptc/online_training/std_handbook/gallery/images/syphilisrash.jpgIncluded here are syphilis, gonorrhea, Lymphogranuloma Venereum (LGV) LINK: http://www.cdc.gov/std/lgv/STDFact-LGV.htm#Howget , Chancroid, Pubic Lice, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), Trichomoniasis (yes, a 'swipe down the pants' can result in a handful of this on the TSA Officer's glove)...all depending upon the 'hygiene' of the traveller as well as that of the TSA Officer.
Warts due to HPV:
Warts due to 'HPV' Here's a general STD link for you: http://www.cdc.gov/std/default.htm
--Herpes infections: Genital Herpes herpes simplex viruses type 1 (HSV-1) or type 2 (HSV-2). Most genital herpes is caused by HSV-2 and occurs on the genitals and rectum. Per our friends at the CDC, "Transmission can occur from an infected partner who does not have a visible sore and may not know that he or she is infected."
How does that make you feel? Sure a person with HSV-1 (with 'oral Herpes' also known as a cold sore) will stand out to the observant TSA Officer. But will that Officer change gloves? Will that TSA Officer 'take care' with open Herpes sores and the clothing, gloves, etc that they may touch during removal and examination?
--What kind of gloves does the TSA use? Let's say they're 'polynitrile' (which they appear to be from photographs and would be a likely choice since they need to be both chemical and solvent-proof). If LATEX is used, some people are tragically ALLERGIC to LATEX and anaphylactic shock can ensue with improper manipulation of body parts in these allergic individuals.
A 'swipe of the mouth'...or any other body cavity, for that matter, can mean DEATH due to breaching of the mucosal barrier in latex-sensitive individuals.
Is this taken into account?
--Pertussis ('Whooping Cough')--a very contagious disease only found in humans and is spread from person to person. People with pertussis usually spread the disease by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others, who then breathe in the pertussis bacteria. LINK: http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/about/causes-transmission.html
Pertussis USED to be under control, but infection rates have risen globally and also in the United States as some parents have become lax with vaccinating their children despite recommendations to do so.
Airports with world travelers are a 'contagion gateway' for this disease with all this 'up close and personal' scanning and body examinations. What a wonderful breeding ground for disease our airports have become. Consider these:
--Common cold, influenza, 'bird flu', 'swine flu', viral pneumonia--all of these viruses are easily transmitted. If there is another 'flu pandemic', current TSA regulations will virtually guarantee global contamination for travelers everywhere. Changing gloves...or even washing hands plus changing gloves is insufficient to protect one traveler from another or to protect the traveler and TSA Officer from each other if and when one is infected with a bad case of 'the flu'.
And we must consider:
--Bacterial pneumonia and Tuberculosis: the transmission risks are obvious to all of us.
Head Lice (& abscess)
Then there are my old friends found in homeless shelters and soup kitchens and the various mental health and other facilities I have worked in:--Scabies,head lice (as well as pubic lice, above), mites, fleas (yes-fleas will infest HUMANS when no other warm-blooded critters are available!). And just think of the burgeoning BED BUG PROBLEM we are having with all these insect 'hitch-hickers' hitching a ride on imported goods, furniture and clothing! Watch out for those chairs in airports until the regular 'fumigating' programs kick in.
(And then I will write a piece on the connection between pesticide overuse and human cancer rates....but that's a different story, for now.)
And so you have the best of my advice for you. Please note that one of the disease categories that I HAVE NOT included above in the list of easily-transmitted human diseases is HIV infection. This virus requires direct body-fluid-to-blood contact which is unlikely to occur in the typical TSA screening scenario today, unless internal exams become mandatory.
There's no way, no how that HIV is 'casually' or even 'easily caught' by being exposed to urine, feces, specks of blood, copious tears or saliva spat upon the face, otherwise I would have been dead long ago.
I also have not included hyper-contagious/dramatic pathogens such as the Ebola, Marburg and Lassa viruses for the simple reason that typically the 'host' does not 'live long enough' to create any substantial 'chains of infection' in the public in an airport setting. LINK: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/spb/mnpages/dispages/vhf.htm
So there you have it and what I've listed here is in no way comprehensive. We tell our children NOT TO share combs, hairbrushes, toothbrushes and so forth with others. Yet we subject them to 'this'.
We allow them and ourselves to either be exposed to unwarranted irradiation and/or to be subjected to a 'pat-down' by someone with dirty gloves and perhaps capable of transmitting some disease to us.
And equally disturbing is the possibility of our INFECTING OTHERS because our 'intrusive TSA' Officer examiner did not bother to or did not KNOW any better than to change his or her gloves.
We cover our coughs with our 'arm sleeve' or hand. Then the nice TSA lady pats that sleeve, thus getting a good gloveful of whatever we may or may not be carrying. Now SHE is at risk for illness just by discharging her duties and she puts others at risk.
It just doesn't seem right, does it?
God Bless You and your loved ones this Thanksgiving week
Reverend Barbara Sexton
"The Biblical Biochemist-Where Science Meets the Cross"