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How to prevent corona virus infection when traveling by plane?

As defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), people who are within two rows of an infected person are considered to have been in contact with them and are at high risk of infection.



When an epidemic breaks out in the era of globalization, airplanes will become a convenient vehicle for pathogens to spread to many countries around the world. This is especially true for respiratory diseases such as influenza, and most recently, acute respiratory infections caused by a new strain of corona virus (SARS-CoV-2).


When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they release droplets into the environment called "droplets," which carry viruses, bacteria, and pathogens. Each time, tens of thousands of these droplets will have the opportunity to adhere to surfaces on the plane, most dangerously within 6 feet (equivalent to 1.8 meters).


If you inhale these droplets, or touch the droplets that are on any surrounding object, such as the arm of a chair, dining table, or bathroom door on an airplane, then you touch your hand. You will also be at risk of infection.


This is how the corona virus spreads on an airplane, and the safest seat you should choose
This is how the corona virus spreads on an airplane, and the safest seat you should choose

As defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), people who are within two rows of an infected person are considered to have been in contact with them and are at high risk of infection.


But in fact, when flying, people often do not just sit still, especially for long flights. We often have to go to the toilet, stretch our legs, get things from the luggage shelf above.


In 2003, a passenger infected with the SARS virus, which causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, boarded a flight from Hong Kong to Beijing, and infected people sitting outside the WHO two-row line.


The New England Journal of Medicine then noted that the WHO criteria "missed 45% of patients with SARS".


Inspired by this case of infection, a team of public health researchers investigated in-flight scenarios to see how the risk of infection on an airplane changes depending on location. seat position.


The study was carried out by a team called the FlyHealthy Research Team, led by professors of statistical biology Vicki Stover Hertzberg and Howard Weiss from Emory University. They observed the behavior of all passengers and crew on 10 US transcontinental flights.



Airplane movements, the way people communicate, talk, get up from their seats, go to the toilet were all recorded, to estimate how many close encounters occurred in a given day. long distance flight.


Probability of coming into contact with an infected person on an airplane. Note: This is the probability of exposure, not the probability of infection.
Probability of coming into contact with an infected person on an airplane. Note: This is the probability of exposure, not the probability of infection.

Probability of infecting a person on an airplane, according to research by Professor Weiss. People sitting in two rows of seats next to the sick person have an 80 to 100% chance of infection. Flight attendants have a 5 to 20% chance of infection. The remaining passengers only have a probability of infection of less than 1%.
Probability of infecting a person on an airplane, according to research by Professor Weiss. People sitting in two rows of seats next to the sick person have an 80 to 100% chance of infection. Flight attendants have a 5 to 20% chance of infection. The remaining passengers only have a probability of infection of less than 1%.

"Suppose you choose to sit in the middle row, right next to the aisle, and I'm going to walk to the bathroom, then we'll meet at a distance of less than a meter," Professor Weiss said. "So if I get infected, I can pass it on to you... We are the first researchers to quantify this scenario."


Professor Weiss' research revealed most airliners would leave or stand up to check their overhead baggage during this mid-range flight. Overall, 38% of passengers will leave their seats once, and more than 24% will leave their seats 2 or more times. Another 38% of passengers remained seated in their seats for the entire flight.


This estimate helps determine the safest seat positions to sit in, in case you want to minimize the risk of infection. Accordingly, the passengers who did not get up the least tended to sit in the row next to the window. Only 43% of passengers in this position got up and moved, compared with up to 80% of passengers sitting by the aisle.


Passengers sitting next to the window also had fewer face-to-face encounters than those in other seats. They were able to see another person an average of 12 times, compared with 58 times in the middle seat and 64 times when sitting in the farthest aisle seat.


As you can see in the simulation, choosing a seat next to the plane window will help reduce your risk of exposure to an infectious person.


Even so, the contacts that occur on the plane are relatively short, so the risk of infection is not always high.


"Even if you're sitting in the aisle seat, there's bound to be a lot of people walking past you, but they'll move quickly," Professor Weiss said. "Overall, what we're reporting is a low probability of infection among passengers on board."


The story changes only in the scenario where the infected person is a crew member. Crew members often have close contact with each other on many occasions. And when a flight attendant walks down the aisle, she's in contact with a lot of passengers, for longer periods of time.

Professor Weiss' research found that an infected crew member had a risk of infecting 4.6 others. It is therefore a mandatory rule that if the crew is ill, they should rest at home.


After all, Professor Weiss said that all passengers when traveling by plane should follow 6 infection prevention measures of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):


1. Avoid close contact with infected people. Or if you are infected, avoid contact with others (CDC recommends a safe distance of 2 meters when around a person with symptoms of cough, fever, suspected nCoV virus infection).


2. It's best to stay home when you're sick.


3. Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, preferably with a tissue, and then throw it in the trash.


4. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.


5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.


6. Practice other healthy habits related to health.








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