Perhaps on the surface, this product might make some kind of sense to people overly alarmed about the H1N1 outbreak, who don't like to be slowed down by facts and who have $14.99 burning a hole in their pocket. But to everyone else, using the Sure Fit Transit Cover to protect against the flu would have to defy logic.
As the e-mailed pitch goes: "Searching for an option to keep people safe and protected, Sure Fit, the nation’s leading slip cover and accessories provider has created the newest must-have item to ease fears of catching the flu en route with the Transit Cover."
The cover does what it sounds like it does. It slips over the back (just the back) of an airplane or bus seat.
It's up to you to avoid touching the arm rests. And tray table. And bathroom door. And the seat while taking the cover on or off. And the cover itself once you take it off, because presumably you'd want to reuse it... Airborne transmission is a less reliable way to spread the flu, but it might be a good idea to not breathe while you're on the plane too.
Just ignore the fact that not even toilet seat covers do much to protect against the spread of disease. And one is presumably not touching multiple surfaces in a toilet stall. Here's an answer to that much-wondered-about public health question, courtesy NYU Langone Medical Center: True or False: It Is Possible for a Person to Get a Sexually Transmitted Infection from a Public Toilet Seat.
Users don't even have to take those things with them when they leave.
If you really want to know how to reduce the chances of contracting so-called swine flu, or any other flu, here's some advice from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Soap and hand sanitizers are featured prominently; seat covers are not.
For more on disease transmission, here's a report from the L.A. Times earlier this year: Cold and flu viruses travel a tricky route, plus a sidebar: Discovering how flu is transmitted may give clue to prevention.
The first story states: "The mere presence of a virus doesn't necessarily mean it is still infectious. But a Swiss study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology in May showed that influenza virus not only can remain on paper money for up to 17 days, but also that it can be alive and ready to infect."
Separating consumers from their money? Maybe there is something to this seat cover. And if that's what it takes to "ease fears of catching the flu en route," please, go ahead.
-- Tami Dennis
Photo: Don't touch anything. Don't even look at anything.
Credit: Richard Derk / Los Angeles Times