Dr. Robert Baker’s Most Plausible Winning Entry
by Lee D. Zlotoff
December 17, 2008
General Problem: Outbreak of vomiting on an airplane.
Unknowns: Number of passengers affected, other symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, etc.
Solution by Dr. Robert Baker
- First, inventory the number of passengers affected and those who are starting to feel affected.
- Isolation is unlikely to be helpful in cramped spaces on an aircraft. Air is recirculated and there are common water supplies.
- It’s beyond the scope of the magazine suggestions, but it would be helpful to know if the members had common links (such as being from the same families) prior to departure.
- Assuming that this sickness is either from ingesting something on the plane, such as a toxin, or from a very rapid viral or bacterial source, some kind of common source exposure can be postulated. Typically, common food poisoning does have a rapid onset. If so, diarrhea will be shortly following the vomiting.
- No one should consume anything that is not bottled and capped. It’s after the second meal, so that advice will only help a few.
- Deal with the vomiting and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Some suggest a brief period of bowel rest, but oral rehydration solution (ORS) can be given even if the patient is still vomiting.
a, Oral rehydration solution should be prepared from available ingredients. Here are instructions: Wash your hands with soap and water before preparing solution. Prepare a solution, in a clean pot, by mixing:
- 8 level teaspoons of sugar and
- 1 level teaspoon of salt
- in 1 liter of clean water (bottled in this case and preferably boiled before use). Batches can be made depending on the number of the affected.
Note: ORS should be given in small amounts, as frequently as possible. If water runs out then diet sodas could be used. The solution can be flavored with packets of lemonade powder if present, or using diet sodas as a base. Gatorade is not a very good choice as it is too sugary and does not have enough salt.