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More evidence that the coronavirus is spreading on long flights



  • A CDC study provides more evidence that the coronavirus is spreading on airplanes.
  • Epidemiologists traced 16 coronavirus cases back to a 10-hour flight in which a symptomatic passenger was sitting in a business class.
  • Case studies have shown that 92% of passengers who are sitting two seats or less away from passengers have been infected with the coronavirus.
  • Most passengers on the flight are unlikely to wear masks.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

On March 1, 217 people boarded a plane to Hanoi, Vietnam in London, England.

Medical staff have checked each passenger, asked them to report any potential COVID-1

9 symptoms and perform a temperature scan.

However, a 27-year-old business woman did not report that she had a sore throat or a cough. Her temperature was scanned normally.

However, the woman’s symptoms gradually worsened in the following days. She tested positive for COVID-19 on March 6.

Subsequent contact tracing revealed that this woman had spread the virus to 15 other passengers during the 10-hour flight.

The case study is described in a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which provides stronger evidence that the coronavirus can be spread on airplanes, especially when passengers are not wearing masks. In early March, the use of masks was not mandatory on flights, so most passengers may not wear masks.

92% of passengers in 2 seats of infected women are sick

Researchers at the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology in Vietnam, after learning of the businesswoman’s infection, tracked the people on the flight-the passengers and the crew. The local health staff met with everyone (184 people) they might come into contact with, and informed all those with suspected COVID-19 cases to self-quarantine and keep in close contact with them.

The 15 health workers identified are all considered “flight-related,” which means they can be reliably traced back to the flight and not to other incidents. Before or during the flight, no other infected passengers showed symptoms of COVID-19. Except for the business woman, no one was with anyone who was confirmed to have the coronavirus. The business woman traveled to Italy with her sister (the latter later tested positive in London).

Twelve of the infected passengers were business class passengers, except for one passenger, all passengers were seated in two or fewer seats not far from the female – 92% of all passengers who were seated were sick Up. The virus also spread to two economy class passengers and a crew member.

seat.  Aircraft case

This graph shows the seating positions of passengers on Vietnam Airlines Flight 54 from London to Hanoi on March 2, 2020.

Nguyen et al/CDC


The researchers concluded that this woman is most likely to spread the coronavirus to other businesses through infected droplets or aerosols (small particles that are expelled from the mouth when someone breathes, speaks, or yells) Cabin passengers and crew.

Two economy class passengers may be infected at the airport during customs or baggage claim by touching a contaminated surface or standing near the woman for a long time.

Although the researchers stated that they could not completely rule out the possibility of passengers contracting the virus in other ways, they pointed out that there were only 23 recorded COVID-19 cases in the UK on March 1. Similarly, when travelers arrived in Vietnam, only 16 cases were recorded in the country, which makes them unlikely to contract the disease after leaving the airport.

In addition, most cases are clustered in business categories-if they come from different sources, it is unlikely.

Airlines may need stricter rules to stop the spread of coronavirus

Based on their findings, researchers believe that airlines may understate the risk of coronavirus spreading on flights.

Face mask airplane coronavirus

On March 1, 2020, passengers wear masks on a plane at Geneva Airport.

Valery Sharifulin TASS via Getty Images


The authors said: “The latest guidelines for the international air travel industry classify the risk of in-flight transmission as extremely low, and recommend the use of masks only, without the need to take other measures to increase the body distance on the plane, such as blocking the middle seat.” wrote . “Our findings challenge these suggestions.”

However, MIT researchers calculated in a July paper that refueling in the middle seat doubles the risk of COVID-19 spread on the plane. (However, this research has not yet been peer reviewed.)

The epidemiologists behind the CDC’s new study say that even blocking the middle seat will not completely prevent a superspread event on the plane because the sick passenger in the study spread the virus to both seats. In addition, those people are in business class, where seats are larger and more widely distributed than in economy class.

Therefore, the researchers recommend that airlines and government officials implement stricter inspection policies on passengers, test everyone who disembarks, and isolate all newly arrived passengers for 14 days.

Currently, every major US airline requires passengers to wear masks during the entire flight, except when eating or drinking. However, not all passengers can cooperate. It may be more difficult for everyone to wear a mask during the entire long-distance flight, such as the 10-hour drive from London to Hanoi.

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