Coronavirus Pandemic

Researchers show how coronavirus spreads on planes

Web Report
Filed on September 19, 2020
plane, covid-19, coronavirus, flights

(Reuters file)

Both cases were on long flights early in the pandemic before airlines began requiring face masks.

Based on study of two Covid-19 cases, researchers concluded that on airline flights seating proximity was strongly associated with increased infection risk and causing clusters of substantial size.

Both cases were on long flights early in the pandemic before airlines began requiring face masks, and were in the business class where seating arrangement is spacious,CNNreported.

In one of the two cases published in Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal, it was found that a young woman, who had a sore throat and cough as she boarded a flight from London, had already infected 15 other passengers during the 10-hour to Hanoi.

The young woman and her sister had traveled across Europe early in the pandemic, visiting Milan and Paris before heading to London. From there she boarded a flight home to Vietnam on March 1. "She was seated in business class and continued to experience the sore throat and cough throughout the flight," the researchers said.

Three days after she landed in Hanoi, she went to a hospital and tested positive for the virus. Following this, health officials tracked down 217 passengers and crew who had been on the flight with her and found 12 fellow business class passengers, two economy class passengers and one crew member were also infected. While a team from Vietnam tracked down a cluster of cases linked to the flight that arrived in Hanoi from London on March 2.

"The most likely route of transmission during the flight is aerosol or droplet transmission from case 1, particularly for persons seated in business class," Dr Nguyen Cong Khanh of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology in Hanoi and colleagues wrote.

While the second case study was of a couple who flew from Boston to Hong Kong in business class on March 9. They both exhibited symptoms after they arrived and were diagnosed with coronavirus. Contact tracing found two flight attendants were also positive for the virus.

"The only location where all four persons were in close proximity for an extended period was inside the airplane," Deborah Watson-Jones of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and colleagues wrote in a second report in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Emerging Infectious Diseases journal.

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