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VTA spokesmodel says LRT clean compared to most other transit

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  • 2/26 SJSU Spartan Daily
    Published Monday, February 26, 2007, by the SJSU Spartan Daily Light rail commuters fend off germs By Carla Mancebo Bless you, someone called out to an
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 27, 2007
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      Published Monday, February 26, 2007, by the SJSU Spartan Daily

      Light rail commuters fend off germs

      By Carla Mancebo

      "Bless you," someone called out to an elderly sick man as the light
      rail reached its stop at Paseo de San Antonio.

      A dozen students disembarked, unaware they may have gotten off with
      a little more than their iPods and books.

      According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu
      season peaks in February and may spread until May. Reported
      influenza cases have risen by 12 percent in California this month.

      The CDC recommends avoiding close contact with people who are sick,
      but some don't have the choice.

      "I have had the flu twice this year, so riding the light rail is a
      nightmare," said Jamie Freitas, a senior majoring in history and a
      light rail commuter. "It's my obsessive compulsive disorder, I try
      and ignore the coughing and hacking but I can't, so I cringe the
      whole way to campus."

      Bacterial and viral infections are most commonly caught through
      the air we breathe, said John Boothby, a professor of biological
      sciences at San Jose State University.

      Boothby said sneezes and coughs produce particles that once
      evaporated will turn into a dried residue called, droplet nuclei.

      This residue, which can last in the air for hours, may then transfer
      infection through the respiratory tract.

      "When I'm on an airplane and I hear somebody sneezing in the back
      of the plane I know within hours I'm going to be breathing whatever
      that person had," Boothby said.

      In the past year, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority has
      seen an increase in commuters, said VTA Communications Manager,
      Jayme Kunz.

      She said that on an average weekday roughly 33,000 people use the
      light rail.

      The influx in riders will force cramped conditions, which Dr. Kamila
      Shekhar said is a perfect place to catch illnesses.

      "Avoiding infectious viruses is difficult," said Shekhar, a physician
      at Kaiser Permanente. "Humans are breeding grounds for germs.
      Unfortunately, stopping the spread is not so easy -- especially in
      poorly ventilated and crowded places."

      Kunz said the VTA is concerned for the health of the riders and that
      the trains are cleaned once in the evening for garbage and visible
      dirt.

      "I don't think they boil the train," Kunz said. "But the trains
      are very clean in comparison to other public transportation in the
      country."

      But Boothby said the transmission of infections through surfaces
      is possible but not as prevalent as transmission through aerosols.

      Living in a microbe-infested world can be unbearable for some people
      but they learn to adapt.

      "I'm a freak about germs, some people call me a germ-a-phobe," said
      German Toledo, a radio, television and film major. "If someone is
      coughing near me I ask them to cough into their sleeve or I, simply,
      move."
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