How a sick airline passenger in next row will likely infect you
A RECENT study has found that airline passengers have a greatly increased chance of getting sick if they are seated near a contagious person.
According to the AFP, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) found a correlation between the increased exposure of passengers to illnesses like influenza if the sat next to infectious people or in the adjacent row.
In a study that is the first to quantify the odds of getting sick based on a person’s proximity to an infectious person, researchers studied 10 transcontinental flights and meticulously tracked movements of passengers. Their goal was to gauge the likelihood of the passengers contracting common respiratory infections acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and influenza, which are spread by tiny droplets in the air and on surfaces.
“Passengers seated within one row and within two seats laterally of the infected passenger had an 80 percent or greater probability of becoming infected,” said the study.
“For all other passengers, the probability of infection was less than three percent.”
The study by researchers at Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology also found that crew members could infect an average of 4.6 passengers per flight, the AFP reported.
“Thus, it is imperative that flight attendants not fly when they are ill.”
Contrary to popular belief that respiratory viruses tend to be found on tray tables and seatbelts, the researchers who took swabs of the items found no traces of them there. They suggested most illness is spread by sneezing and coughing and not droplets that fall on surfaces or the ground.
Swabs for respiratory viruses on tray tables and seatbelts also showed no trace of viruses, suggesting that most illness is spread by sneezing and coughing, not droplets that fall on surfaces or the ground.
Fortunately, existing public guidelines have cautioned passengers seated two rows of an infected passenger to monitor their health conditions for contagious diseases.
Lenox Hill Hospital emergency physician Robert Glatter, who was not involved in the study, was quoted as saying the study’s model argues that it requires you to be closer than previously reported — within one row and two seats of an infected passenger — as opposed to two rows regarding greatest risk of becoming ill on an airplane.
“But the risk was significantly less if you were seated beyond two rows of an infected person who was coughing or sneezing. This runs counter to traditional thinking that if a person coughs or sneezes anywhere in the cabin, they will infect the entire plane.”
So what can we do to prevent getting the common flu or something potentially worse?
Glatter said passengers must pay meticulous attention to hand washing, or using hand sanitizer to reduce your risk of becoming ill during air travel.
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Source: Travels travelwireasia.com