I got an interesting letter in the mail today from Transport Canada. In it was an advisory circular, entitled "Protecting the health & safety of employees on board aircraft in epidemic situations involving airborne communicable diseases".
Basically, it's what to do when the bird flu mutates and becomes communicable from human to human, which is probably going to happen sooner rather than later. When it does, millions of people will become infected and a pretty good chunk of those will die. Anyway, Transport Canada has decided that it's a likely enough scenario that they need to come up with a plan to fight it. After all, airplanes carrying sick pasengers will make any epidemic a pandemic within a few hours.
It says lots of basic stuff like the flight crew should use respiratory protection devices, which I'm assuming might be some variant on a surgical mask or an oxygen mask. It reminds us to use basic hygiene, which is certainly appreciated in a multi-crew cockpit whether or not an epidemic exists.
But here's the funny part:
"Air operators should also prevent obviously ill passengers from boarding their aircraft when they show signs such as persistent coughing, impaired breathing, persistent diarrhea, persistent vomiting, skin rash, abnormal bleeding and reduced mental clarity."
Some of the stuff would be pretty obvious, like persistent vomiting or hideous disfiguring skin rash. I have flown lots of passengers with reduced mental clarity, but that has mostly been due to the bar stock we carry, and they got better after drinking lots of water and having a nap. Abnormal bleeding? I can't think of more than one scenario in which bleeding is normal, and I'm sure as hell not going to investigate that one either - it's not polite to do that to any of our paying passengers, let alone half of them. How on earth are we to know if a passenger about to board our aircraft has persistent diarrhea? I'm really not looking forward to that particular encounter...
You know what? It's just not worth it - in fact, remind me to call in sick that day :)