Afbeelding Coronavirus
Image: Pixabay

Reporting on Coronavirus

The spreading of the Coronavirus is increasingly accompanied by disturbing reports. On top of that, some of the reported complications add a whole new dimension to the Aerotoxic Syndrome. 

In an article on April 1 2020, the New York Times described a number of serious neurological health issues as a result of the Coronavirus. These involve confusion, strokes and seizures. One of the examples cited is a Detroit based cabin crew member in her late 50s. She was hospitalised with complaints of severe headaches, was very confused and couldn’t tell her doctors much more than her own name, while her condition quickly deteriorated. A brain scan showed abnormal swellings and inflammations in several brain areas, in some areas brain cells had died. Her diagnosis was: “acute necrotizing encephalopathy”. It has by now been confirmed that under certain conditions the Coronavirus (as well as some other viruses) can penetrate the brain and cause severe damage there. Worldwide several comparable cases were determined.

Consequences of Coronavirus infection

The Coronavirus attacks our immune system with various mechanisms. In each of those mechanisms the depletion of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) plays a key role. This eventually causes the failing of the immune system, which results in serious pathologies such as severe pneumonia and multiple organ failure.

White blood cells produce cytokines (inflammation signal flags). The depletion of ascorbic acid will cause dysfunctioning of the white blood cells, which in turn leads to so-called cytokine storms. These cytokine storms further contribute to the collapse of the immune system.

At the same time, the red blood cells, particularly Hemoglobine cells are attacked. Iron atoms (Fe) are drained from the Hemoglibine cells, rendering them unable to transport oxygen.

The results can be very serious: severe lung damage, liver failure, breathing problems (ARDS) and brain infections as a result of a damaged blood-brain barrier. This blood-brain barrier is supposed to prevent toxic substances, bacteria, viruses etc. from penetrating the brain.

Read the latest insights in these processes in this article.


Contaminated cabin air

For various reasons, the air on board of passenger aircraft is in fact always contaminated. The level of contamination varies, depending a.o. on the phase of the flight, the age and technical status of the engines and the APU. However, this results in everybody on board (both passengers and crew) being exposed continuously to a wide range of toxic substances, including the highly toxic Organophosphates. During a so-called Fume Event the concentrations of these toxic substances can further increase drastically. Exposure to these toxic substances (either acute during a Fume Event or on the long run by so-called Long Term Low Level exposure) can cause a range of medical issues, often referred to as Aerotoxic Syndrome (AS).

Results of Exposure

By exposure to these toxic substances the immune system is also affected, as well as the blood-brain barrier. This damage will make an AS-patient extra  vulnerable when infected by the Coronavirus, he will run an even higher risk of brain damage.

Daniel Dumalin

Since the beginning of 2019, Daniel Dumalin MSc., clinical- and  research psychologist and neurophysiologist in Oostende, Belgium, has been researching  demonstrable brain damage as a result of exposure to contaminated aircraft cabin air, among cockpit- and cabin crew as well as platform employees (including Maintenance Engineers) and frequent flyers. Daniel is a.o. specialised in the interpretation of CT- and MRI-scans. Read his reaction here on the earlier mentioned article in the New York Times and the scan results that were published with it.

Image: Pixabay

Increased risk of  infection

Remember that  chances of being infected by this virus are much higher on board of an aircraft than outside. After all, it is virtually impossible to maintain the recommended social distance of 1.5 meters between crew members and passengers (or passengers among themselves). Moreover, effective protection, e.g. by wearing good quality gloves and face masks, is the exception rather than the rule. Time Magazine focussed on this problem in this article of April 3 2020. Mail Online published an article on 22 September 2020, which clearly demonstrates how a single infected passenger onboard of an aircraft can pose a serious health risk for ALL occupants.

Permanent Vulnerability

Despite all the preventive measures taken, including some drastic ones (such as quarantaine or even complete lockdown), one can safely assume that a considerable part of the world population will be infected by the Coronavirus. A number of the victims will end up with a serious illness if not worse, but the vast majority will only experience some mild flu-like symptoms or even no symptoms at all. All survivors’ immune systems will  produce antibodies which will render them (probably permanently) immune for this virus. But… unfortunately the eventual damage to their blood-brain barrier will probably be permanent, resulting in a permanent increase of vulnerability.

Increased numbers of medical issues expected

All this will most probably result a significant rise in the number of people (both crew members and passengers) developing health issues upon exposure to cabin air contamination. After all, also in Aerotoxic Syndrome a damaged blood-brain barrier plays a key role! This makes it even more important for the authorities and the aviation industry to take proper measures to guarantee the air quality on board of aircraft. Think of the installation of Full Flow Bleed Air filters and detectors for harmful substances, which will obviously require some firm extra investments. In the longer term, replacement of the entire present fleet with Bleed Free aircraft is the only real solution.  But, considering the huge economical damage the industry is facing these days, it is probably unrealistic to expect them to take their responsibility and apply these measures shortly…

Protect yourself!

Even in “normal” times it is advisable to ensure a sufficient level of vitamin C, because of its crucial role in the immune system. Fly Aware therefore advises the use of vitamin C at all times, especially before and during air travel. As mentioned above, vitamin C is depleted at a higher rate in case of infection by Coronavirus, with all its consequences. Under the current higher risk of infection, it is therefore advisable to take extra vitamin C, e.g. 5000-6000 mg per day. This will normally not cause any side effects. Should your body not tolerate that (light diarrhea), it is better to take a lower dose.

A number of hospitals around the world, too, are using vitamin C for the treatment of Corona patients these days. Sometimes even intravenously (directly in the blood steam) in much higher doses.

Finally, Stichting Fly Aware strongly advises everyone to avoid travelling by aircraft if at all possible. If there is no other option, it is of vital importance for both crew members and passengers to strictly apply the prescribed hygienic precautions. And last but not least: wear a good quality face mask at all times!