Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Does Fingerprint ID at Entry Portals Spread Swine Flu?

On May 26th 2009, one month after the Swine Flu pandemic started, I entered the USA at Newark Airport, on my way to conferences in Winston Salem and Chicago. As I passed through Passport control I was asked to press my four fingers and then my thumb of each hand onto a glass plate and have my photo taken. The officer stamped my passport and then allowed me through with a cheerful remark.

As I walked away I looked back at the hundreds of people waiting in the Non-US Citizen lines, who were about to press their fingers on similar flat glass panels. I looked at my hands and wondered how many hundreds of people had touched that same glass panel before me. A looked to see if anyone was wiping the glass panels but did not see anyone doing that. From my own experience I knew that these devices worked best with slightly greasy fingers.

This happened five weeks after the first deaths from H1N1 were reported in the United States. I suspect that all non-US-citizens coming into the USA from Mexico would have had their fingerprints taken in the same way, since the procedure was adopted by DHS late in 2008 .

According to my sources, when many people touch hard surfaces in a short period of time they are very likely to spread viruses. Fingerprint recorders might be able to spread flu to hundreds of people.

It is June 29th 2009 now and I have just attended another flu pandemic lecture by experts in Europe. I was told today that the US pandemic has passed 1 million cases and the country is preparing for 100 million cases next winter. Luckily, I have not had any illnesses this trip. I wash my hands a lot now, and enter bathrooms by pushing the door with my elbows. I shake hands much less and gradually spend less time kissing and hugging people who are not close family members. I recall that Queen Elizabeth always wears white gloves when touching people - perhaps that would be a bit extreme - but perhaps not. I carry hand cleaner and wet-wipe tissues in my laptop bag now.

As I prepare for the long flight home to Perth Western Australia, my paranoia builds. My mind fills with questions such as.
  1. How many Non-US citizens developed flu after passing through US immigration?

  2. Do persons not fingerprinted (US Citizens?) have the same rate of flu as Non-US-citizens?

  3. How many people, after travelling abroad, then developed Swine flu but, as far as they knew, had never been in contact with a case?

  4. Do fingerprint machines still work if they are wiped with alcohol between people?

  5. Would it be possible to give everyone a little hand towel after passing through so that we needn't worry?

  6. Are the fingerprints really being used for anything or is it all just a practice run?

  7. Is there anyone at CDC who has tested these machines for viruses using a sufficiently sensitive and validated technique?

I sneezed once this afternoon but I feel quite well. It's probably an allergy. Have I still got my box of Relenza? I will make sure it is in my carry-on. Fingers crossed. Time to hit the sack.


Carina said...

You may not have been sick before you arrived home, but we'll make sure your snotty grandchildren fix that! Why worry about fingerprint plates when we can provide direct contact transmission?

The evil daughter in law.

deybra said...

Wow Barry You are an inspiration. I am not as famous as Darwin. I am famous on the island off Maui. Hope to kill the hpylori before it kills me...........Like your blogs! I am not giving up hope yet. I am going to ask my doctor about you. She said she worked with someone who was the leading expert in hpylori. Maybe it was you?

adam said...
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