FELLOW TRAVELERS: Snakes and More on a Plane...

by Janet A. Ginsburg

Icarus would be gobsmacked. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), two billion people took to the skies last year. Even rounding down for frequent-flyer repeaters, that’s a crowd. On any given day, more than five million of us are up in the air, mindlessly defying gravity, sailing through the clouds. And we are not alone…


A few weeks ago, a Kansas City television station aired video of a mouse infestation aboard an American Airlines jet. Mice had nibbled their way through a wire and insulation feast, nested in air vents, scampered under seats, partied in overhead storage bins, and left a dusting of fecal confetti pretty much everywhere. Dead mice were reportedly discovered in oxygen masks -- just the sort of “drop down” surprise guaranteed to make any emergency that much more memorable.

Worse still, the Boeing 767 had logged tens of thousands of miles flying between New York and Los Angeles from the time the problem was first reported in April to when the mess was cleaned up in May. Chances are you know somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who was on that plane.

According to the maintenance employee who supplied the footage, exterminators estimated that there could have been as many as 1,000 mice on board, although the airline reported finding just 17 alive (no word on how many dead). AA insisted there was never any danger -- and the Federal Aviation Administration agreed. Reports of rodent infestations are required only if there's a mechanical problem, not merely the threat of one. So no big deal.

Well, maybe. But if that 767 had been a restaurant, the Health Department would surely have shut it down.

News of the Mouse Plane scurried across the net, prompting an outpouring of “You won’t believe what happened to me!” stories. More mice on planes. A few rats on planes. The occasional escaped pet guinea pig. Swarms of mosquitos. Bed bugs. And yes, snakes on planes, too....

To read the full article, including a behind-the-scenes look at LAX at some of the exotic animals coming in legally, go to the archives page at germtales.com

germtales is now a website. In addition to posts on subjects ranging from The Mystery of the Ancient Horses to Mind Germs, there are book reviews, interviews, news headline links and an extensive, eclectic sources page.

Thanks for your interest!



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