Do Dirty Subways Help Immune Systems?

Mass Transit- Germ Phobics Take Note

A study out of the University of Nottingham in England might be of interest to commuters. During two flu outbreaks in recent years, researchers interviewed patients in doctors’ offices regarding if and how often they used public transportation (buses, trams/streetcars). Most of the patients with acute respiratory infections had made use of these transportation modes in the last five days. That is, the relationship between contracting influenza and public transit use was statistically significant. The interesting finding was that frequent users of public transit modes were less likely to come down with acute respiratory infections than occasional users, who demonstrated greater risk than either the controls or the frequent users. Those who travel by public bus or tram repeatedly, it is assumed, have built up protective antibodies to the viruses that make other people sick.

The findings would lead one to conclude that, if you’re going to use public transportation, use it all the time, not just occasionally. But a caveat posed by one of the authors of the study is that these findings would not hold true in the case of pandemic influenza, where daily commuters have not had the chance to develop immunities.