True or False: the risk of catching a virus from a sick person on a flight is lower than in many confined spaces?
Modern aircraft are equipped with HEPA filters, which effectively capture more than 99.97% of airborne microbes.
Health studies show that cabin air quality is as good as, if not better, than what you breath in a normal office environment. High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters capture bacteria, viruses or fungi that can be passed from human to human through the air. These days aircraft are also regularly disinfected as part of normal cleaning routines.
That’s not to say that it’s not worth taking additional measures to feel better when you fly. Avoid touching people and regularly wash your hands or use sanitiser. Drink plenty of water and juice to stay hydrated. Wear loose, comfortable clothing and make sure you move your ankles while seated and stretch your feet when you can.
What are the facts about Coronavirus for travellers
With the current coronavirus outbreak, the amount of misinformation is spreading like its own disease. The International Air Transport Association’s Medical Adviser is pleased to put the records straight and answer these frequently asked questions.
Is there a need to cut down on air travel to reduce the chances of getting infected?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is not advising restrictions on travel or trade, even though many countries have made unilateral decisions to introduce them. International coordination is key in dealing with the virus outbreak.
What can passengers do to protect themselves from infection on board?
The range of simple measures advised by WHO are effective even for passengers on a flight: careful and regular hand washing, or hand sanitiser, avoiding touching other people, covering coughs and sneezes (and then hand washing), avoiding travelling if becoming unwell. Wear a mask only if you are not feeling well.
Is the risk of catching a virus on a plane higher than in a shopping centre of in an office?
The risk on a plane is lower. Cabin air in a modern aircraft is changed more frequently than in offices or shops. The air supply is either fresh or filtered through HEPA filters of the same efficacy as those used in surgical operating rooms.
Where to find more information?
If you would like more information on health and wellbeing related to air travel, here are two useful resources.
WHO’s International Travel and Health manual covers cabin air pressure, flight phobia, communicable diseases, and a list of precautions to take while travelling.
Health Tips for Airline Travel is published by the Aerospace Medical Association (AsMA). This brochure provides passengers will useful tips for healthy and comfortable air travel.