Prague’s Poliklinika Na Národní ran an interesting study throughout the city’s public transportation system in October 2018, observing instances of coughing and checking to see if individuals had covered their mouths.
The results? From a total of 1,260 people seen coughing on Prague’s metro, trams, and buses, only 349 – 27.5% – covered their mouths with a hand, arm, handkerchief or other method.
Germs from the other nearly three-quarters of Prague public transport commuters can be presumed to be hitting the air in a tram near you.
Beyond the obvious health risks – the flu has claimed 12 lives in the Czech Republic so far this winter season – the study was conducted, in part, to bring attention to the economic impact of spreading viruses and bacteria.
“Statistically, this group is among the diseases with the shortest average period of sick days, but it is still more than 15 days [in total],” MUDr. Vlasta Plachá from the Poliklinika Na Národní stated in a press release.
“And given the economic impact of this disease, it is necessary to state that we are spreading the disease mainly due to our lack of consideration. Taking some pills and nose drops and going to work is not heroism or self-sacrifice, but pure irresponsibility not only to yourself but also to others.”
The first tip, then: stay at home, and off Prague’s public transportation, if you’re feeling ill.
But catching a cold on public transportation isn’t a Prague phenomena; according to a 2011 study by the University of Nottingham, people who use public transportation were up to six times more likely to catch the common cold.
Be sure to take these precautions to avoid catching a cold – or worse – on Prague’s metro, trams, and buses:
1. Wash your hands after riding
The most common transference of cold and flu viruses is by touch, and surfaces on Prague’s high-trafficked metro, trams, and buses are a prime point-of-transfer. Be sure to thoroughly wash your hands with warm water after riding and before eating. If you don’t have quick access to a sink, hand sanitizer is an acceptable (but not as effective) alternative.
2. Sit down – or stand tall
Studies have shown that the greatest percentage of public transportation germs are found on the vertical poles that run from floor to ceiling – where most people hold onto while riding. Sit down to avoid poles altogether, or (if you’re tall enough) grab hold of the less-frequently used top horizontal poles.
3. Carefully navigate the infected
Of course, you want to avoid fellow passengers who display symptoms of being ill. But in a crowded metro or tram, that might not always be possible. If you find yourself stuck next to a coughing person, try to position yourself to their side or back rather than directly in front of them in the line of fire, and minimize inhaling for a few seconds after a cough.
While the coronavirus has been getting all the press of late – despite no confirmed cases in the Czech Republic – flu and cold viruses are far more prevalent in the country. Be safe out there – particularly on Prague’s otherwise excellent public transportation system.