In the past, research into outbreaks on airplanes focused on flights that took place last spring, when planes were full, passengers mostly didn’t wear masks and preventive measures weren’t broadly understood. A new study, however, examined a more recent outbreak on a flight that put numerous containment measures in place — and the results were not great for travellers.
In September, an outbreak occurred aboard a flight from Dubai to Auckland, New Zealand. The 86 passengers onboard went into a mandatory 14-day quarantine in New Zealand, and seven eventually tested positive. Researchers at the New Zealand Ministry of Health found that at least four were infected on the flight.
The aircraft, a Boeing 777-300ER, with a capacity of nearly 400 passengers, was only 25% full and the four people infected in flight were seated within four rows of one another during the 18-hour trip.
The in-flight outbreak occurred when additional precautions were in place and passengers were more cautious. But researchers still identified a number of holes. Two of the four people infected on the plane said they didn’t wear masks on the flight. The airline also did not require passengers to wear masks in the lobby before boarding or be tested preflight.
Previous studies on the risk of infection during air travel are mixed (airplane filtration systems are thought to help, even when a passenger is infected), but the latest research suggests that airlines need to tighten precautions even more to avert in-flight outbreaks.
(Picture Courtesy: NPR)