Flights now come with plenty of rules in place to limit the spread of coronavirus. Face masks must be worn, social distancing is encouraged and frequent hand washing is heavily advised. The risks of catching COVID-19 do still remain, however.
A new study has revealed where on a plane there is the “highest risk” of catching the virus.
The research was carried out by Soonchunhyang University College of Medicine in South Korea.
The team analysed an evacuation flight from Milan to Seoul on March 31, back when Italy was facing sky-rocketing coronavirus cases.
Eleven passengers of the 310 fliers were not allowed onto the plane due to having COVID-19 symptoms.
The 299 who did fly were sat apart for social distancing and wore high-grade N95 masks.
They sported these throughout the flight and only took them off to eat during the food service and when using the plane toilets.
All travellers self-isolated for two weeks upon landing in South Korea.
Six passengers who showed no symptoms tested positive for the virus on the very first day of quarantine.
However, one woman only tested positive on the final day of self-isolation.
This suggested she had caught coronavirus while on the flight.
Researchers believed this would have happened after she used the onboard toilet without wearing a mask.
Plane filters are highly effective so airborne infection transmission is unlikely.
What’s more, “strong infection control procedures” and been in place on the flight.
The study explained: “On the flight from Milan, Italy, to South Korea, she wore an N95 mask, except when she used a toilet.
“The toilet was shared by passengers sitting nearby, including an asymptomatic patient.
“She was seated three rows away from the asymptomatic patient.
“Given that she did not go outside and had self-quarantined for three weeks alone at her home in Italy before the flight and did not use public transportation to get to the airport, it is highly likely that her infection was transmitted in the flight via indirect contact with an asymptomatic patient.”
The report continued: “Considering the difficulty of airborne infection transmission inflight because of high-efficiency particulate-arresting filters used in aircraft ventilation systems, contact with contaminated surfaces or infected persons when boarding, moving, or disembarking from the aircraft may play a critical role in inflight transmission of infectious diseases.”
It added that the “most plausible explanation for the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to a passenger on the aircraft is that she became infected by an asymptomatic but infected passenger while using an onboard toilet.”
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