A new study has probed the risk of transmitting and catching Covid-19 on a long-haul flight – and the results are alarming.
The investigation centred on a female passenger who flew on a 10-hour trip to Vietnam from London on March 1 – before widespread travel restrictions were introduced.
The research, carried out by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was published in the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal and highlighted the potential risks of international travel.
It revealed the female passenger involved in the study exhibited a few symptoms of coronavirus ahead of the journey and tested positive a few days afterwards, reports ExpressOnline.
However, it was later discovered she had infected 14 passengers on the plane and a flight attendant. Some 12 of the passengers were travelling in Business Class along with the woman, although the airline was not identified.
“Aerosol or droplet transmission” from the already-infected passenger would have been transmitted into the cabin causing the outbreak, according to the CDC.
It claimed the risk of contracting coronavirus on long flights was “real”. However, it must be remembered that the study was undertaken before passengers began wearing face coverings on flights.
“The most likely route of transmission during the flight is aerosol or droplet transmission from case one, particularly for persons seated in business class,” said the study.
“The risk for on-board transmission of SARS-CoV-2 during long flights is real.
“[It] has the potential to cause Covid-19 clusters of substantial size, even in business class-like settings with spacious seating arrangements well beyond the established distance used to define close contact on airplanes.”
The US body recently revealed that nearly 11,000 passengers have potentially been exposed to coronavirus on flights in the States, but it is not known how many people have picked up the virus whilst travelling onboard a plane.
Further research confirmed that face masks are an “essential protective measure” against the virus.
The insight was outlined in the technical publication “Face Mask Use in Air Travel,” released last week by Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Wearing face masks – and wearing them correctly – is “critical” in the fight against coronavirus, the report said.
“The use of face masks is critically important throughout the air travel process, from entering the airport for departure to leaving the destination airport, because it diminishes the release of infectious particles into the environment,” the report stated.
Another study found that universal use of surgical masks on planes may reduce infection risk from respiratory particles to less than one percent.
Cotton fabrics with higher thread counts are the most effective among non-surgical masks.
However, some airlines forbid the use of non-medical face coverings onboard an aircraft with some carriers insisting passengers carry several spare face masks for a journey.