The straightforward answer to this question is “yes” and “no”.
Yes, because you come in contact with more people and are exposed to various surfaces of the public transport that may be breeding grounds for bacteria.
No, because if your immunity level is high or if you take proper precautionary measures, you will not contract any illness.
Although public transportation is a breeding ground for uncleanliness and numerous disease-causing bacteria and viruses, there is no conclusive evidence that people who ride public transit get sick more often. Especially during the flu season, it’s common to hear people sneezing and coughing in the bus or trains. Some people who have very low levels of immunity may start feeling the symptoms of sickness quite fast. And, by the end of the day, they manage to get the “complete package” of symptoms like a sore throat, itchy nose, feverishness, body pains, cold, and cough.
However, people with high immunity are less susceptible to catching sickness irrespective of whether they travel by public transport or their own vehicle. Actually, using public transport constantly exposes you to the germs and makes you immune to them.
Common Diseases You Can Contract Using Public Transport
1. Common Cold
The common cold is caused by different viral strains that can also be transferred by air. Often, most of these disease-causing viruses remain active on surfaces like arm rests, handles, tray tables, and support poles for several hours. When you come in contact with these objects and then touch your face, you transfer these germs to your body. Hence, it is important to wash your hands or at least refrain from touching your face or consuming foods without washing your hands. Disinfecting the surfaces around you also helps reduce the possibility of picking up these germs.
Flu viruses tend to travel in the air through tiny droplets that are released when a person who is sick coughs, sneezes, or even talks. Public transport systems such as planes, trains, and buses are the danger zones, as the flu can spread easily because of your close proximity to others. Traveling on a plane puts you at a high risk as the dry air from the altitude reduces our body’s natural immune defenses, making it easier for the virus to enter the body.
3. Viral Meningitis
Although your chances of contracting viral meningitis from public transport systems are very low, it is spread through respiratory secretions of an infected person. Bacterial meningitis, on the other hand, is more dangerous and deadly. This does not spread like viral meningitis and you are not vulnerable to this unless you consume food or beverages from a person who has this disease. Make sure that you never share a coffee cup, spoons or plates from a co-passenger. Bacterial meningitis does not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the same air as someone with this illness.
While it is very rare that you can contract the bacteria, which causes tuberculosis, it is possible. Again, the airborne droplets are the primary means for the bacteria to spread from one person to the other. You may develop tuberculosis by breathing in the bacteria when a person suffering from the disease coughs, sneezes, spits, or speaks. Thankfully, tuberculosis is not as contagious as the cold or the flu. Experts note that you are more likely to contract tuberculosis causing bacteria from someone you live or work with than from a stranger on a public transport.
- Public transit riders are six times more likely to suffer from acute respiratory infections and occasional users are most at risk. Those who ride every day may build up an immunity to the viruses, making them less vulnerable to illness than those who only ride once in a while.
- Studies have shown that on an average, people touch their face 16 times an hour.
- The metal poles and straps that passengers often touch are contaminated with microbes and bacteria.
- Stainless steel is a good transfer surface and about 50 percent of the germs on those poles are picked up by human hands, making them great carriers of the cold and flu virus.
- Your eyes, nose, and mouth are direct portals for infection and you can greatly reduce your risk by avoiding touching your face.
- During the cold and flu season, ensure that your body is well-hydrated by consuming plenty of fluids and give it ample rest. This can boost your immune system and prevent you from developing illnesses.
- After you get off the public transit system, wash your hands thoroughly before eating anything or touching your face.
- Disinfect your hands using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Consume natural foods and supplements that can improve your immunity.